SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 14th September) confirmed that thousands of Section 39 health and social care workers will participate in a one day national strike next Tuesday (18th September) to highlight their claim for full pay restoration.
A demonstration to be addressed by ICTU General Secretary, Patricia King, outside the Department of Health in Dublin will take place from noon on the same day.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Our members deferred strike action last February at the request of the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to allow for a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) process to be initiated.
The process was designed to allow for an orderly resolution to our members’ legitimate dispute. The process agreed between the parties in February resulted in the gathering of data from fifty nominated Section 39 employers which confirmed that none of these organisations had the necessary financial resources to commence pay restoration.”
He added: “What is most staggering about this dispute is that An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, confirmed on the floor of Dáil Eireann that these workers, many of them low paid, have an established pay link with the public service and as such are entitled to pay restoration in line with directly employed counterparts, under the FEMPI legislation. It should be remembered that Dáil Eireann voted unanimously in favour of a Fianna Fail private members’ motion seeking pay restoration for these workers.
It is incomprehensible to our members that the Government and HSE acknowledge that the monies are owed, yet will not pay them.
“The WRC process did produce a formula of how Section 39 organisations could make applications for the funding necessary to pay our members. SIPTU, ICTU and other unions have agreed that this proposed formula is acceptable.
However, the formula can only work with initial funding in the region of €4 million. It is also important to recognise that this campaign for pay justice has received cross-party support, including from disabilities minister, Finian McGrath, and massive public backing.”
Today (Monday, September 3rd) ICTU General Secretary Patricia King has called on the Government to restore pay to Section 39 workers, in line with the public sector agreement. King has specifically called on the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health to immediately make available resources to resolve the dispute.
“The workers in Section 39 Organisations had their pay cut in line with cuts imposed on workers in the public sector. Now that pay is being restored in the public sector workers in Section 39 Organisations should also receive the terms of the public sector pay agreement.”
Patricia King’s comments follow a meeting earlier today in which SIPTU, FÓRSA and UNITE confirmed that they would be consulting with members to consider what action is appropriate in light of the failure of Government to address the issue of pay restoration for workers in Section 39 Organisations.
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.
SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 13th April) informed the management of the HSE that if it has not completed an audit of Section 39 organisations by May Day (Tuesday, 1st May) union members will reactivate a notice for strike action.
The move follows a meeting, chaired by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, where representatives agreed to an HSE request to allow their officials two additional weeks to complete the audit of Section 39 organisations.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Having received a partial audit of Section 39 organisations, which had been due to be completed by 31st March, we have taken the decision to accede to a request by the HSE to extend the time agreed to complete this critical work.
“We have also alerted the Workplace Relations Commission, the HSE and the Department of Health that we are insisting that all the parties to the dispute re-engage on May Day.”
He added: “We have informed the employer that if this vital audit is not completed, to our members’ complete satisfaction, by May Day, it will face the reactivation of their notice for strike action.”
INDEPENDENT assessment and analysis of pay data submitted by Section 39 Organisations to report by 31st March 2018.Link between Section 39 workers and HSE workers RECOGNISED
Pay Restoration implementation group ESTABLISHED RESTORATION to commence on a phased basis this year. VIABLE process to restore the pay of thousands of Section 39 workers SECURED STRIKE ACTION not cancelled but deferred for six weeks to allow time for assessment and analysis report to be produced.
The campaign to ORGANISE Section 39 workers continues to ensure PAY JUSTICE for all! Join SIPTU today!
SIPTU members have stepped up the drive to secure pay justice across Section 39 organisations and look set to take industrial action in early 2018.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Since the beginning of our campaign we have received cross-party support from members of the Oireachtas including Minister of State with Responsibilities for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath, Sinn Fein Health spokesperson, Louise O’Reilly, and Labour Health spokesman, Alan Kelly.
However, the Department of Finance and the Department of Health are continuing to pass the buck between themselves, it would seem in a hope that the legitimate concerns of our members will just go away. That is not going to happen. Our members’ resolve is strong and the feeling on the ground is that a national strike next month is now unavoidable.
He added: “Our members are resolute that they cannot continue to provide first-class healthcare services at third class wages. SIPTU representatives will not accept the Government and HSE attempts to wash their hands of this injustice by saying they are not directly involved in the employment of the Section 39 workers.”
Patrice Madden, a member of the union from Cork, said: “Section 39 workers had their pay cut by up to 8% in the wake of the financial crisis. They have been left high and dry while other healthcare workers directly employed by the Government in HSE facilities have since had pay restoration.
“When the pain was being dished out by successive governments it was dished out equally but when the time comes for some pain relief, in the form of pay restoration, up to 10,000 workers like me are left wanting. It’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s not just.”
SIPTU member, Liz Cloherty, from Galway, said: “The current situation is simply untenable. It is a disrespectful way to treat people. All we are asking for is fair treatment. Staff undertake precisely the same work as directly-employed HSE staff and must have the same qualifications. The only difference is in their pay packet.
“This pay injustice is now so severe that hundreds of workers are quitting the sector, entirely leaving people who rely on the service potentially exposed and vulnerable.”
Section 39 organisations are Government grant-aided organisations which provide disability, mental health and community services.
To learn more about the campaign download the SIPTU Health Division App.
SIPTU members are set to step up their campaign to secure pay justice across Section 39 organisations on Wednesday (8th November).
Members will meet with Minister of State with Responsibilities for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath, to seek support for a process that would commit the Government to providing a clear road map to increase a block healthcare support grant. SIPTU representatives propose that an increase in the grant, provided for specific care providers, could be used to reverse wage cuts imposed on low-paid healthcare contractors in 2010 and pay justice won for Section 39 workers.
Section 39 workers had their pay cut by up to 8% in the wake of our financial crisis have been left high and dry while other health care workers directly employed by Government and HSE facilities have since had pay restoration.
SIPTU representatives will not accept the Government and HSE attempts to wash their hands of this injustice by saying they are not directly involved in the employment of the Section 39 workers.
When the pain was being dished out by successive Governments it was dished out equally but when the time comes for some pain relief, in the form of pay restoration, up to 10,000 workers are left wanting.
The fact is that in 2010 a political decision was made to cut the block funding grant which triggered the wage cuts. This means the State is intrinsically involved. All industrial relations bodies including the Workplace Relations Commission have endorsed the workers position but both the Government and HSE has refused to act.
Members are resolute and our union will not stand idly by and watch these dedicated workers be asked to provide first class healthcare services at third class wages.
Section 39 workers are in hospices, community hospitals and Rehab facilities. In the intellectual disabilities support sector alone, one in ten workers is employed on a Section 39 contract.
Staff undertake precisely the same work as directly employed HSE staff and must have the same qualifications. The only difference is in the pay packet.
This pay injustice is now so severe that hundreds of workers are quitting the sector entirely leaving people who rely on the service potentially exposed and vulnerable.
The last thing communities need is a staffing crisis in Section 39s but the feeling of frustration on the ground is palpable.
SIPTU member, Liz Cloherty from Galway, said the situation was simply untenable.
“It is a disrespectful way to treat people. All we are asking for is fair treatment,” she said.
“If we are doing the same work as others and must have the same qualifications, then why aren’t we being paid the same.”
Last week, SIPTU launched the “Pay Justice for Section 39 Workers” campaign after delegates attending the union’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Cork unanimously backed a motion calling on the Government and Health Service Executive (HSE) to ensure Section 39 organisations adopt transparent governance systems including conforming with HSE norms in the area of employee contracts and employment rights.”
Addressing the conference in Cork City Hall, SIPTU Health Division Committee member, Peter Behan, said: “We must send a very clear message that our members will not continue to provide first class service delivery on third class pay and conditions.
“There are literally thousands of care workers of all grades employed in Section 39 Organisations providing both health and community services. Health Division members work in Section 39 organisations which are household names due to the services they provide to our most vulnerable citizens. Section 39 organisations receive millions of taxpayers euros to provide these services mainly in the care of citizens with intellectual disability.”
He added: “Section 39 Health Service providers are not exempt from criticism with scandal after scandal concerning excessive payments made to senior managers and executives well outside public sector pay norms.
“For our members and the public questions remain despite investigations by the press and the Public Accounts Committee. The HSE and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have simply failed to take any action to correct this situation which has damaged public confidence in the whole Section 39 and Voluntary Sector.”
SIPTU is initially consulting with staff in 10 Section 39 organisations regarding balloting for strike action in the weeks ahead.
The organisations include Rehab Care and the Cheshire Foundation, which are national operations, Western care in Mayo, St Joseph’s Foundation in Cork, SOS Kilkenny, the Cork Association for Autism, Ability West, and St Aidan’s Hospital in Wexford.
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Jacqueline Kirby is a social care leader at St Joseph’s Foundation, a Section 39 disability service provider , in Cork where she has worked since 2005.
She experienced two pay cuts, one of about 6 per cent in 2010 and 2 per cent in May 2014. She said increments were frozen for six months for some staff.
When theprocess of pay restoration began in the public service last year she was told it did not apply in her organisation.
“I emailed and asked when we were getting pay restorations and I was informed by our HR manager that Section 39 companies had not been given it back so they were not in a position to give it,” she said.
“We all signed up to it (the cuts) so we should all get it back. To me it is that simple. I do not think it is fair for the Government to say we have given the money to them but we are not giving it to you. We all signed up to the agreement to help the country, to help the economy and now we should be getting back as well.”
Helen Power works in the day service at St Joseph’s Foundation in Cork as a supervisor. She has been with the organisation since 2005.
She said she also experienced two pay cuts. In addition, for the last three years, there are mandatory holiday closures of the facility, and she only has four “floating” days she can choose to take off.
“They are ruining the relationship they have with some extremely talented staff around the area of disabilities which is a very hard sector to work in,” she said.
“They are not doing themselves any favours. We are a voluntary organisation . we do a lot of fundraising and I have seen a decline in the number of staff willing to help in fundraising due to the fact that they do not feel they are getting the support from St Joseph’s Foundation, from management.”
Liz Cloherty currently works in RehabCare and previously worked for another Section 39 body, Autism West, but was made redundant.
She said after moving to RehabCare she was placed on the pay scale at a level which was about 5 points below where she would have been if she had joined a Section 38 body given her level of experience.
“I took a pay cut of five increments lower, plus two cuts imposed by the Government.”
She said the HSE did not fund RehabCare to pay the first phase of pay restoration provided to Section 38 staff this year and will also not get the additional payments at the start of 2018.
She warned that the Section 39 bodies would lose staff if the pay differential continued.
“Why would you stay in a Section 39 if you could go to a Section 38 that would pay better. That affects every service user.
“The Section 39s suffer as they are not getting the funding to keep their staff.”
SIPTU members in St Aidan’s Services, Gorey, Co. Wexford, a section 39 organisation providing day and residential services for people with intellectual disabilities, held the first in a series of work stoppages today (Wednesday, August 10th) in protest against the non-payment of increments due to them.
SIPTU Organiser, David Morris said: “Our members have been badly let down by the refusal of HSE management to pay them what they are owed. The workers have explored every avenue open to them to find a solution to this dispute and now feel they have no option but to take action to highlight the situation.”
He added: “In 2010, the HSE withdrew funding for salary increments. An agreement is in place that aligns salaries in HSE funded Section 39 organisations such as St Aidan’s Services with HSE consolidated pay rates. HSE workers have had their increments restored so it is only fair that workers in Section 39 organisations enjoy parity of esteem and the same respect.”
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