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Making the difference for Section 39 workers

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.”


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