Community sector and Section 39 health workers to march for better pay and respect

Trade union members working in the community sector and for Section 39 healthcare organisations from across the country are holding a major protest to highlight the need for better pay and respect of their roles in Dublin on Tuesday, 3rd May.

Among the hundreds of organisations the trade union members work for are Rehab Group, Western Care, Pieta House, EmployAbility, Local Employment Services, Ability West, Inclusion Ireland, Local Community Partnerships, Job Clubs, LEADER projects and the Irish Wheelchair Association.

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “In many cases community sector and Section 39 organisation workers are poorly paid, have poor or no pension provision and lack security of employment. This is despite these workers providing important health and social services to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society.

“The role of such community and healthcare organisations is vital at all times. They played a particularly key role in keeping our society together during the pandemic and are now being called upon to assist the wave of refugees that have resulted from the conflict in Ukraine.”

He added: “SIPTU, Fórsa and the INMO have come together under the banner of ICTU to seek a collective bargaining forum with Government to ensure our members’ terms and conditions of employment are on a par with the quality services which they provide.”

SIPTU Health Division Sector Organiser, Damian Ginley, said: “These workers provide some of our most vital community and care services including care for persons with a disability, the elderly, vulnerable families, meals on wheels and young people.

“The march and protest outside Leinster House in Dublin on Tuesday, 3rd May, is an opportunity for these workers and their supporters to tell the Government that action must be taken now to properly recognise the importance of the work they do. These workers need a pay rise and access to sick pay and pension schemes.”

Marchers will assemble outside the Customs House, Dublin 1, at 11.00 a.m. from where they will march to rally in Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

SIPTU conference told community workers to begin protest campaign on 11th April

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, has told the union’s Biennial Delegate Conference that members within the community sector will begin a national campaign of protest, industrial and strike action aimed at ending “the neglect of this sector by the state”.

Addressing the conference today (Tuesday, 29th March) in Sligo, King said the campaign would begin with a national protest in Dublin on Monday, 11th April.

He added; “The continued neglect, underfunding and wilful abandonment of the workers in this sector by the State and the establishment is shameful. Community and Section 39 Agency workers provide essential public services, on behalf of the State, to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised citizens and communities.

“The denial of funding for improvements in pay and conditions of employment is unacceptable. The move to privatise and commercialise some of these services will have profound negative consequences for our society and the citizens and communities that rely on them.”

He continued: “The Government must engage with this union to put in place a process that ensures these workers and their representatives can engage in a meaningful collective bargaining process that delivers implementable outcomes. If this Government is serious about the concept of Sectoral Bargaining, treating all the stakeholders as equals then it should show it in this Sector of our economy.

“SIPTU, with our colleague unions – Forsa and INMO will be supporting community sector workers in a campaign of protest, industrial and strike action in their pursuit of the right to be treated fairly and equitably. This commences on Monday, 11th April with a national protest and I ask you all to do everything you can to support this. Join us on our protest and let’s show solidarity with the resolve of community sector workers to make sure 2022 becomes the year we end their neglect by the State.”

In his address, King also renewed his call for the Government to review the Building Momentum, Public Sector Agreement. He said: “This is necessary right now because the underlying assumptions underpinning this modest agreement no longer apply. Inflation and the risk to the exchequer finances arising from the impact of the Covid pandemic are not in the place they were in 2020.”

More than 350 delegates are attending the SIPTU Biennial Delegate Conference in the Clayton Hotel in Sligo which to debate and discuss motions on improving the lives of workers in Ireland.

Hundreds of SIPTU members working in Section 39 organisations set to strike on Friday

SIPTU Public Sector representatives have today (Wednesday, 19th February) confirmed that members in selected Section 39 organisations across the country will take strike action on Friday (21st, February) in an effort to resolve a dispute over pay restoration.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The treatment of these vital community health workers, who work in areas such as home care, dementia and alzheimer services, is totally unacceptable. Strike action is the only option left open to our members to policy makers andthose who fund the services to sit up and take notice. SIPTU representatives have fought long and hard to win a pay restoration formula that could be applied across Section 39 organisations and the continued refusal of these organisations, aided and abetted by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to vindicate their rights will not be tolerated by our members.

“Our members in these organisations, all low paid workers, are falling further behind, having endured cuts in pay of approximately 6% and a reduction in their hours which has had a knock on effect on service users and their families. They now have been left with no option other than to take action on Friday.”

He said: “The number of members involved in this dispute nationally is roughly 6,000 and strikes will be rolled out on a phased basis, in every part of the country, over the coming weeks. The amount of money the Department requires to fairly resolve this dispute is no more than €7 million which is small change for the incoming Government but it would give our members a big break.”

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Eddie Mullins, said: “During this entire dispute our members demonstrated great compassion and responsibility by doing everything in their power to achieve a legitimate objective without affecting services to vulnerable clients and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, within the sector there is often a blatant disregard by employers who take advantage of thegood nature of staff and ignore accepted industrial relations procedures. Many workers in the sector were subject to pay cuts during the austerity years similar tothose imposed on their colleagues in the public sector.”

He added: “The outgoing government failed to recognise that they have a right to pay restoration and pension provision in line with the improvements secured in more recent years by public sector workers.”

SIPTU will not allow Section 39 workers battle to pay justice to be ignored

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.”

 

Congress Calls on Government to Restore Pay to Section 39 Workers

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.

Pay restoration and progression in play

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.

14/04/2018 Comments are off SIPTU
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SIPTU tells HSE to complete Section 39 audit or strike notice will be reactivated

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.”

 

Section 39 Pay Justice Campaign Countdown

Agreement at a glance

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! 

Download a workplace leaflet here

Section 39 pay drive steps up a gear

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.

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.”