Belfast Telegraph

Commute hundreds of miles to work or lose your job, Edwin Poots tells Derry health staff

By Donna Deeney

Health administration workers in Londonderry have been told that when it comes to their job, they will have to move it or lose it.

The admin staff are being forced to relocate or lose their jobs after the minister decided to press ahead with moves to rationalise operations.

Health Minister Edwin Poots made the move despite widespread opposition from the 43 workers affected, and trade unions.

Government plans to take staff based in Derry and move them to either Omagh, Belfast, Ballymoney or Armagh as part of the Shared Services plan has been met with anger.

Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said he will continue to fight for the jobs to be retained in Derry.

One employee now facing the possibility of unemployment or a four-hour daily commute to Armagh hit out at the lack of real consultation ahead of the DUP minister's decision.

He said: “My job is one of those being shifted to Co Armagh.

“So the choices I have are either to move to Co Armagh and sell my house — which in the current market is impossible — or I undertake a four-hour round trip every day. Neither is practical.

“This was never a proper consultation process. It was a flawed document to begin with because there was no full quality impact assessment done and we have now been left high and dry.

“We went into the meeting back in January looking for answers but we left with the impression that they had already made up their minds.”

Speaking after questioning the Health Minister on the issue, Mr Durkan said the move would come as a major blow to low-paid health service employees.

He said they would be forced to travel a considerable distance to keep their jobs. “Many of those affected have young families and the demands that working as far afield as Belfast or Armagh would place on them makes it unfeasible for them to remain in their job,” he said.

“I commend everyone who has been involved in making representations in responding to the consultation. However, it appears that fears this was a done deal seem to have been well-founded.”

Mr Durkan said he had asked Mr Poots if money will be made available for further voluntary redundancies.

Background

Like every other health trust, the Western Trust operates its own administration department, which looks after its payroll, finance payments and income, recruitment and staff selection, travel and subsistence. But these operations are to be centralised at key centres across Northern Ireland.

  • The payroll function will be administered from College Street in Belfast;
  • Payment transactions will be undertaken from the Braid Valley Hospital site in Ballymena;
  • Income transactions will be located in Omagh, at the Tyrone & Fermanagh Hospital site; and
  • Armagh will be the centre for the recruitment and selection function.

Analysis

Savings yes, but little for workers in Derry

By Steven Alexander

When he made this week’s announcement on the centralisation of health administration jobs, the minister admitted that Londonderry — and its women in particular — would be hit hard.

Nevertheless, Edwin Poots told the Assembly that his controversial plans for shared services were necessary to generate savings of £120m over 10 years, and he expects annual savings to rise to £17m per year — cold comfort to those facing a long daily commute, moving house, or seeking a new job.

The DUP minister said that Derry and Downpatrick would be worst affected, including many women on lower pay scales, often working part-time and with family or other caring commitments.

“While each person has the right to ‘follow their job’ to one of the new centres of expertise, distance may rule that out as an option for some staff,” said Mr Poots.

“Equally, the low turnover rates currently experienced in the HSC (Health and Social Care) means that staff cannot be guaranteed that a vacant post will become available with their existing employer in their current location.”

The minister said he had made two changes\[Shane Donaghey\] to his plans.

He said he would create a temporary recruitment and selection office with around 15 staff in Derry to last up to two years, and would help those affected by the changes in the transition period.

Mr Poots also said that the shift to the new admin centres would start in March 2013, rather than the end of this year.

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