Hotel cleaning staff are being told to clean up to two thirds more bedrooms per shift as their employers try to make up for the cost incurred as a result of the increase in the minimum wage, the Siptu biennial conference in Cork has been told.
The union said the staff who previous would have been expected to clean 12 bedrooms over the course of a shift are now expected to clean up to 20 and could face disciplinary action if they do not reach the target.
The union’s incoming deputy general secretary Ethel Buckley said some were expected to lift loads of bedding or laundry bags heavier than those carried by baggage handlers at airports.
The conference also heard from nurse Becki Donohoe who said she had been punched in the face, spat on, scratched and pinched.
She said there had been 3,462 incidents of physical assaults recorded by the HSE between January 1, 2011, and July 26, 2016.
“70% of assaults are on frontline staff with 2,372 recorded against midwives and nurses,” she added.
Also at the conference, the union passed a motion calling for more to be done to raise awareness and get employers to engage with representatives at local level on skin cancer levels in the construction and agricultural sectors.
Delegates were told that one in four cases of skin cancer relate to those sectors according to figures from the Irish Cancer Society. They heard that annual rates of melanoma skin cancers were approaching 1,000 annually and that 140 people were dying every year from it.
“The Irish Cancer Society identified that in the UK, research shows that working in the sun could lead to one death and around five melanoma cases a week,” said Jim Smith of the union’s Meath branch.
“The report published in the British Journal of Cancer said that construction workers diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer had the highest number of deaths (four in 10) followed by agricultural workers (over two in 10),” he said.
Meanwhile, the union’s vice president Gene Mealy told delegates that a strike at Irish Rail is likely to go ahead. He also criticised recent calls by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for restrictions on strikes on essential services.
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