Strike looms over Section 39 pay restoration

Dara Calleary

The “completely unacceptable” treatment of Section 39 workers who have not had their pay restored is to be debated in the Dáil today.

Fianna Fáil is to bring forward a motion calling for increased funding to Section 39 organisations which include hospices and disability organisations, to allow them to restore pay to their staff.

It comes as workers prepare to take industrial action next month over the continued refusal to restore pay cuts imposed on staff working in these services.

Speaking ahead of the Dáil debate, Fianna Fáil public expenditure and reform spokesman Dara Calleary said: “You have a situation around the country where nurses working in the HSE have got pay restoration, but nurses who work for other organisations, for instance such as Rehab, have not got that pay restoration.”

He said the Government could not provide him with the exact number of Section 39 organisations providing services around the country meaning it is “proving more difficult” to get a cost of what pay restoration would be.

“In one major organisation it would cost €1m, in another smaller but significant national organisation it would cost somewhere in the region of €300,000,” said Mr Calleary.

“We are talking about large sums of money but nothing excessive and in the context of the services provided by these organisations in disability in health care, including some of our hospices, the cost of not being able to provide the service would be far greater.”

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 in the public service.

However, while they experienced the cuts implemented in the recession years, there has, so far been no sign of them securing the newly-agreed increases secured by trade unions for their public sector members.

Mr Calleary said: “The unions involved have been trying to negotiate with Government for some time. The Department of Health says it is not an issue for them, the Department of Public Expenditure says it is a matter for the HSE. However, we now have a situation where we may be faced with industrial dispute unless there is a pathway to resolution.”

The party’s health spokesman, Billy Kelleher, said some Section 39 services are having “huge difficulty” retaining and recruiting staff.

Siptu is balloting for strike action on February 14 over the issue. Fórsa is also considering industrial action. Siptu said it intends to bring its members’ case to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health next Wednesday.


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