The IMPACT trade union is organising an information meeting in Athlone this evening (Thursday) on what it described as "the exploitation of residential care staff."
IMPACT and SIPTU say health employers are in breach of EU and Irish working time legislation, with residential care staff routinely expected to work 63-hour weeks when the legal maximum is 48 hours.
Tonight's meeting, for staff working in residential care facilities, takes place in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone, at 7.30pm.
IMPACT organiser Una Faulkner explained, “This issue is about the substantial hours that workers spend on-call while they are in-situ at residential facilities over night. ‘Sleepover’ duty, as it is known, is part of the working week for residential care staff.
"The problem is that health employers do not treat these ‘sleepover’ hours as working time for pay purposes, or when they’re calculating the time that can be legally worked. This means that staff are expected to work excessive hours.
“They receive a ‘sleepover’ allowance of just €5.40 an hour, which is well below the statutory minimum wage of €8.65. It is usual for staff to be actively working to provide care during some or all of the ‘sleepover’ period,” she said.
IMPACT lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission in February on behalf of its members working as residential care staff. IMPACT and SIPTU are engaged in a joint campaign to highlight that many health employers are regularly in breach of EU and Irish working time legislation.
Ms Faulkner added, “The current practice is not sustainable. It’s not good for the care staff and it’s not good for the people they care for. Employers are exploiting both the staff and the service users. We’re campaigning for this exploitation to stop.
“We want to see a situation where staff work a maximum of one ‘sleepover’ a week on average. This should be worked as part of the 39 hours set out in their contracts. Any work beyond 39 hours, including so-called ‘sleepovers,’ should be paid as overtime” she said.
Ms Faulkner said that such measures would improve how time and resources are managed because staff would not find themselves pushed to beyond the legal limits.
“Ultimately, these measures would also serve to improve the quality and level of care.”