Hundreds of health and social care workers strike over pay

Hundreds of health care and social workers from State-funded bodies went on a 24-hour strike over pay today.
Hundreds of health and social care workers strike over pay
SouthDoc staff picket at Kinsale Road, Cork.  	Picture: Jim Coughlan
SouthDoc staff picket at Kinsale Road, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Hundreds of health care and social workers from State-funded bodies went on a 24-hour strike over pay today.

A leading trade unionist has urged the government to release funds to the HSE to enable them to restore the pay of these workers to pre-austerity levels.

The strike was staged by workers in Section 39 organisations, which are State-funded to provide essential services like hospice, health and social care.

Organisations affected included the National Council of the Blind in Ireland (NCBI), Western Alzheimers, South West Doctors, Co-Action Bantry and St Joseph's Killorglin, Co Kerry.

There are about 300 Section 39 bodies that provide services on foot of grants paid by the HSE. A deal was reached in October 2018 for the restoration of pay to an initial 50 organisations.

The HSE is committed to the continued implementation of Section 39 pay restoration to the 50 agencies covered by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) agreement.

However, the health authority has stated in its 2020 National Service plan that it wants to engage through the WRC about the “feasibility” of extending the agreement beyond the initial 50 bodies.

The HSE said it regretted the industrial action as it would affect patient and client services.

“Each community healthcare organisation, in which the agency sits, is engaging directly to establish any effect on the service they deliver on behalf of the HSE so that any appropriate mitigation can be identified," a HSE spokesperson said.

The pay restoration for the initial 50 organisation amounts to around €7 million but a further €7 million is needed to restore pay in the remaining 250 organisations.

SIPTU health division organiser Paul Bell said there was still a government in place and it could release the necessary monies to the HSE to complete the pay restoration programme.

“What we want is that the agreement that we made for the initial 50 organisation to roll into the other organisations that are now due payment,” Mr Bell said.

Mr Bell, who was speaking on RTÉ radio, said the workers affected were providing critical services that the State had decided to divest itself of to give to third parties who were Section 39 employers.

Up to 500 home helps working in community and disability services across Dublin city deferred their strike action on Friday after SIPTU secured a pay restoration agreement for them.

Mr Bell said roughly 6,000 members were involved in the dispute and strikes will take place in other parts of the country in the coming weeks.

Fórsa members employed by the National Council of the Blind in Ireland (NCBI) and Delta services CLG in Carlow also took part in the strike.

Fórsa's general secretary, Kevin Callinan, said Section 39 workers were forced to organise and threaten action to get a hearing.

While progress was made, the Government failed to deliver what was required to complete the agreed pay restoration process and that was not good enough.

“There's no excuse for leaving workers providing these vital care services behind. A state that fails to treat the workers providing those key services fairly is an unjust state,” said Mr Callinan.

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