SIPTU launches Pay Justice for Section 39 Workers campaign
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.
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.”