Fórsa: Our local power pledge endorsed by 10 political parties

The largest public sector trade union in the country says its pledge to increase local authority funding and restore local council powers has received the backing of 10 parties fielding 1,056 local authority candidates in tomorrow’s elections.

Fórsa said the number of candidates supporting the union’s call for the restoration of local council powers in areas like housing, water and environmental protection rises to 1,103 when Independents, and individual signatories whose national party didn’t back the pledge, are included.

It said its “local power pledge” has been endorsed at a national level by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, People Before Profit, Solidarity, Independents 4 Change, Aontú and the Workers Party. A further 290 candidates, including 15 Fine Gael candidates and 52 Independents, also signed the pledge individually.

The pledge is part of the More Power To You campaign for enhanced local democracy and community services, which was launched by Fórsa, Siptu and Connect in March.

Fórsa director of campaigns Joe O’Connor, who has co-ordinated the initiative, said the three sponsoring trade unions have asked their members to check which local candidates have signed the pledge before casting their vote on Friday.

“The overwhelming response to our campaign demonstrates a hunger for stronger local democracy among citizens and their elected representatives,” he said.

“The fact that only 8% of Irish public spending occurs at local government level, compared to a EU23 average of over 23%, is compounding shortcomings in services as diverse as housing, water and waste, and sustainable domestic energy use.”

Meanwhile, Fórsa said it has agreed to co-operate with the establishment of nine “learning sites” to pilot new HSE community healthcare organisation structures. It follows a year of negotiations in the Workplace Relations Commission on the implications of the change for staffing, reporting relationships and career structures.

However, it warned that the union’s support for the model is contingent on delivering more “productive services”, while maintaining “effective clinical governance” in the health and social care professions such as speech and language therapists, social care workers, social workers, psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dietitians.

Speaking at the union’s biennial Health Division conference in Sligo yesterday, Fórsa’s head of health Éamonn Donnelly said the model had the potential to bring better health services closer to communities while easing pressures on emergency departments and other hospital services.

“Our healthcare model is too hospital-centric and we need a culture shift from the overly doctor-centred health service,” Mr Donnelly said.

However, Martin Walsh, chair of Fórsa health and welfare division, said the union recognised members had concerns about management functions within the new structure. He also asserted Fórsa will return to the negotiating table if it is a case that health and social care professions’ managers do not retain direct and active input into line management functions.

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