SIPTU has criticised the Department of Health for attempting to undermine the proper application of the statutory minimum wage system for care workers in the residential care sector. SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “If media reports today (Wednesday, 19th October) are correct, the Department of Health seems to believe the existing minimum wage rate of €9.15 per hour (€9.25 per hour from 1st January 2017) should be reduced for 4000 health workers performing ‘sleepover’ duties while caring for vulnerable citizens in community settings. “It is unacceptable that the Department of Health is promoting and actively advancing the case for a two-tier minimum wage for workers in our health service which it deems to be ‘inactive’ during the night period of their duty. It is very disappointing that the Department of Health would promote such a move which, if accepted, could serve as a means to undermine the application of the minimum wage in the wider economy.” He added: “Over the last number of years, our members fought a determined campaign to ensure people working in residential units where ‘sleepover’ duties are an integral part of their work, were paid appropriately for the vital service they provide. It has taken a European Court of Justice ruling and a Labour Court recommendation to convince the Health Service Executive and Government of its obligation to implement the European Working Time Directive for this essential work. This ensured workers were to be paid the minimum wage rather than a nominal allowance of €30 for a 10-hour night period which they had previously received.” “We are calling on the Minster for Health, Simon Harris, to clarify the terms of the advice on this issue which he received from the Department. He must also state what he intends to do in order to reduce the number of ‘sleepover’ hours which health workers are forced to work.”