Contact tracers write to HSE about salary and conditions
A TRADE UNION REPRESENTING some contact tracers has written to the HSE to say that workers are “deeply annoyed and frustrated” by wages and conditions, in a rare public dispute involving contact tracers.
Contact tracers say they are unhappy that workers are being paid a lower rate of pay after two ranks are merged. Separately, a whistleblower said The newspaper that contact tracers were not told of a recent reduction in overtime rates – which the HSE disputes.
Siptou, The newspaper has learned, told HSE management that “unfair and unequal treatment” of contact tracers “will not be tolerated”.
A union representative told a senior HSE program official that workers are increasingly discouraged by their treatment by the health services. In the letter, the union also challenges CPL Healthcare, which recruited and managed the appointment of the workers.
âOur members have consistently demonstrated their commitment to their roles during this pandemic. However, the actions of HSE / CPL undermine this commitment to unfair and unequal treatment, which will not be tolerated, âthe letter said.
Nearly 800 people are trained to work as contact tracers, according to the HPSC, working in six call centers across the country. They come from various backgrounds, some recruited for the function and others seconded from public bodies, the HSE and the Defense Forces. Their job is to phone people who test positive for Covid to identify their close contacts, with the aim of helping stop the spread of the virus.
Contact tracers are unhappy with two issues: a decrease in the amount of overtime paid to contact tracers and the merging of two roles into one at a lower rate of pay.
In the strongly worded letter on behalf of Galway Contact Tracers, Siptu said: âOur members are deeply annoyed and frustrated with the HSE / CPL actions of merging the roles and responsibilities of two ranks to form a new role, without the same level of remuneration. . “
The letter indicates that there were initially two levels of contact tracers, depending on whether the employee had clinical experience or not, but notes that these lines have “blurred” and there is no longer “a difference. Between the two roles. He notes that lower-class workers now assume the same roles and responsibilities as older workers.
At the same time, a whistleblower who works at a contact tracing center said The newspaper that staff are deeply unhappy with the reduction in overtime pay.
The reduction in pay resulted in a fall in the overtime rate from âtime and a halfâ to âtime and a quarterâ.
The contact tracer, who does not wish to be identified for fear of reprisals for speaking up, noted that some colleagues are already paid less than others who are sitting alongside them in the call center, where they work. regularly in 12-hour shifts.
âWe’re at the bottom of the pay scale for what we do and the long 12-hour shifts we do,â they said.
They noted that workers with health care skills are already paid more than contact tracers who lack those skills.
” It is an insult[ing] get paid less than the person sitting next to you because they have a speech-language pathologist diploma. We do exactly the same job and get paid less, âthe person noted.
Not all contact tracers “are allowed to edit the script and are told to never give medical advice,” the person noted, so the qualifications seem moot.
They said workers were not told about the reduction and only found out when they noticed their pay was lower than expected.
âDon’t get me wrong, I’m still in the job for the same reason I started the role. I answered the call and knew I wanted to do my part to mitigate the effects of Covid on families, âthe whistleblower said.
No news is bad news
Support the journal
Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you
Support us now
A spokesperson for HSE said contact tracers are paid the same as other agency workers.
âOvertime rates and rules are nationally approved and vary depending on the category or grade of the employee. CPL follows public pay guidelines and operates in accordance with the Temporary Agency Workers Directive, ie they pay the same overtime rates as the HSE, âshe said.
The spokesperson said an agreement to cut overtime was released to HSE staff in July 2021.
âMore than 900 employees are currently working under the HSE Contact Management Program, established last year as a key part of the HSE’s response to COVID 19.
“The majority of contract research staff are employed on temporary contracts – there will always be turnover as people move into roles which may be of a more permanent nature in the public service or beyond. “, added the spokesperson.
Siptu and CPL Healthcare have both been contacted for comment.