SIPTU, Fórsa and INMO representatives held an emergency meeting today (Wednesday, 7th October) to agree the next steps in a targeted campaign of industrial action to secure pay justice for thousands of Section 39 workers.
The meeting was called to discuss correspondence received by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD declining an invitation to intervene in this long-running dispute involving frontline workers providing community, health and disability services.
SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “The decision of the Minister to wash his hands of this dispute not only beggars belief but has left a bitter taste in the mouths of our members. These are the very same workers who made sure essential services have been maintained throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. The appetite on the ground for a sustained period of targeted industrial action can no longer be wished away by the Government. Consultation meetings for industrial action in the Cork region will commence immediately beginning with South-Doc and Co-Action. Our members are determined to see this campaign through until the end and secure a fair outcome.”
Concerns were also raised at the meeting that some of the 50 Section 39 organisations involved in the first tranche of pay restoration due on 1st October under an agreement secured by unions in 2019 have cited potential funding challenges and are now claiming an inability to honour the agreement.
Fórsa official Catherine Keogh said the union had identified a number of Section 39 employments for which the union’s divisional executive has sanctioned a ballot for industrial action. These are:
- National Council of the Blind
- Delta Centre
- Camphill Communities
- Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland
- National Guide Dogs for the Blind
- De Paul
- Ard Aoibhinn
- South Doc
- Valentia Community Health and Welfare Association
- St Joseph’s Home, Killorglin
- Western Alzheimer’s
- Co Action Ireland
Ms Keogh said union members continued to provide a range of health services to the community throughout the Covid pandemic, but that the Department of Health, the HSE and the Government have effectively turned their backs on these workers.
“These are workers providing essential services who haven’t had the luxury of turning their backs on their responsibilities. They continue to fight for modest pay restoration measures, already agreed in other Section 39 employments. They deserve a swift and decisive response that shows their work is valued,” she said.
SIPTU Health Industrial Organiser, Damian Ginley said: “A decision was taken by the unions that should employers fail to meet the terms of this agreement then union members across these organisations would be left with no choice but to ballot for industrial action. We are calling on the Government to back up their applause for essential frontline workers, to put their money where their mouth is and provide necessary funding to make sure all Section 39 workers get the pay justice they deserve.”