Fórsa latest trade union to threaten industrial action over lack of pay restoration

Fórsa has become the latest trade union to threaten industrial action over the continued refusal to restore pay cuts imposed on section 39 workers.

Eamonn Donnelly, National Secretary Health and Welfare. Picture Dylan Vaughan.

Section 39 employees are not public servants but their employers are grant-aided by the HSE to provide services mainly in the health and social services sectors.

Traditionally, their pay has been linked to rates within the public service.

However, while they experienced cuts in the recession, there has been no sign of them getting the newly agreed increases that trade unions secured for public sector members.

Siptu has already balloted its section 39 members for strike action on February 14.

Now, Fórsa’s Health and Welfare divisional executive has approved a campaign of industrial action “to win pay restoration in agencies that are funded by the public health service, but which operate independently of the HSE”.

The union is not planning action against all employers of its 5,000 members concerned, but said it is identifying which of the section 39 agencies have failed to restore recession-era pay cuts, even though they have relatively robust funding.

“The divisional executive acknowledged that pay restoration across section 39 agencies was more complex than in the mainstream public service because voluntary and community organisations have different funding arrangements,” said a spokesman.

“In other words, some are better able to fund pay restoration than others.”

The union said a significant number of agencies have failed to act, even though they have the money to do so — it intends to focus action on those groups.

Fórsa national secretary Éamonn Donnelly said public authorities — including the HSE and Departments of Public Expenditure and Health — should act to ensure that funding for pay is passed on to staff.

He said the agencies themselves also have to behave responsibly: “Nobody wants to contemplate industrial action in these agencies but Fórsa won’t stand by and see these dedicated workers left behind.”

Siptu has said the HSE and Departments of Health and Public Expenditure have continued to ignore Labour Court recommendations which upheld its members’ pay link with the public service on grounds they have no role or input into pay for workers in section 39 organisations.

Earlier this week, it said a Workplace Relations Commission recommendation agreed with the HSE for sleepover payments for section 39 workers undermined that position.

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