Last October, SIPTU members commenced a campaign for pay restoration in Section 39 organisations.
This involved tremendous efforts by local shop stewards and activists in galvanising members in pursuing a campaign for industrial action where required.
This campaign including lobbying of local political activists, TDs, Senators which resulted in both the matters being subject to Dail debates and a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health hearing at which we presented the arguments for pay restoration.
Following a successful campaign, our members voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action. The real threat of withdrawal of labour was presented to the Government last February.
All along, the Government maintained the position that they were not part of this process and should not be part of the solution.
It was only through our collective efforts that Government were forced to the negotiating table.
A conciliation process was agreed by the Workplace Relations Commission and in order to avert the impending strike action. This intervention forced the Government departments and Section 39 employers to engage in the process.
The Workplace Relations Commission recommended that the Government departments conduct an audit review on fifty Section 39 employment identified by the unions.
The purpose of the audit was to ascertain the level of funding cuts, the pay cuts and what pay restoration had taken place if any.
It also forced the Section 39 agencies to engage directly on the funding requirements for the services provided. We understand that the process to complete this audit and the delays in having re-engagements in the Workplace Relations Commission is frustrating.
During this period, we continued to agitate to ensure the dispute remained relevant.
The current position is as follows:
- The Workplace Relations Commission reconvened all the parties on the 9thJuly 2018 to discuss the audit report and its recommendations.
The Audit recommendations included:
- Acceptance that Government will have to assist in finding and funding a solution.
- That Section 39 Agencies will have to present a cost analysis of the increased funding required.
- The Chairman of the Board will have to sign off on same and will be accountable in the event an audit determines the figures as inaccurate.
- Verification of the Unions claim for pay restoration and confirming our members had suffered pay cuts through reductions in funding.
- A process for pay restoration should be implemented where cuts took place.
SIPTU representatives maintain that as the pay restoration commenced in 2017 that this should be reflected in the agreement reached for section 39 members.
At this hearing, SIPTU representatives left the employers’ side in no doubt of their anger and frustration at the delays in furthering this process.
We also insisted that commencement of pay restoration measures have to happen in 2018. Failure of the Government side to confirm pay restoration in 2018 will lead us with no option but to commence a course of industrial strike action from September.
The Workplace Relations Commission adjourned the hearing to Wednesday 25th July at which time the Government side will have to respond to our demands.
If we do not get a satisfactory response we will be preparing our members to engage in a course of industrial action from September.
We have tried to resolve this matter without the requirement of industrial action, however, we will not be found wanting in ensuring our members’ claims are progressed.
The process to date has been slow and arduous. We acknowledge the frustrations and patience demonstrated by members.
We have placed the Government on notice of our intention to invoke again our threat of industrial strike action if we do not see real progress and a genuine commitment to finding a resolution to this matter.
Our members have shown great determination in pursuing this claim. We will not be found wanting in securing a fair and just process of resolving this dispute.