No HSE funding to restore pay in grant-aided Section 39 bodies

Restoration for state organisations but none offered to community service providers

Tony O’Brien said that when pay for public service employees was being cut in the wake of the economic crash, “corollary high-level reductions” were made to gross funding of Section 39 organisations.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Tony O’Brien said that when pay for public service employees was being cut in the wake of the economic crash, “corollary high-level reductions” were made to gross funding of Section 39 organisations. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The HSE has said it has not received money from Government to allow organisations which it funds to restore pay cuts imposed after the economic crash.

Siptu warned last week of potential disputes in grant-aided organisations which provide disability and community services, known technically as Section 39 bodies, unless the Government tackled growing differentials in pay between their workers and those employed directly by State agencies in the same sector.

Siptu claimed that while staff in State organisations – which are known as Section 38 agencies – had received pay restoration along with all other public service personnel, those employed in Section 39 bodies had not.

Under questioning at the Oireachtas joint committee on health on Wednesday, HSE director general Tony O’Brien said while he was not unsympathetic to the situation of Section 39 organisations and their staff, such agencies were not public bodies and their workers were not public sector employees.

‘High-level reductions’

Mr O’Brien said when pay for public service employees was being cut in the wake of the economic crash, “corollary high-level reductions” were made to gross funding of Section 39 organisations. He said in many instances these organisations decided to deal with the funding cuts by imposing equivalent pay cuts on their staff.

He said that as public service pay was restored over recent years, the HSE had not received money from Government to meet the likely cost of putting in place similar measures in the Section 39 bodies.

Mr O’Brien said resolving the pay parity issue between the State and non-State organisations was “above the HSE’s pay grade”.

The secretary general of the Department of Health Jim Breslin suggested the issue would have to be addressed centrally by the Government. He said the pay parity issue had quite wide implications.

He said while Section 39 organisations represented a significant component of the health service, there were also other sectors where voluntary agencies were also funded from the public purse.

Pay parity row

Mr Breslin said it was not possible for the health sector unilaterally to take a view on the issue. He said the likelihood was that the pay parity row would end up in the country’s industrial relations mechanisms. He said already some Section 39 employers were in the Workplace Relations Commission.

Asked by Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly whether the HSE had instructed Section 39 organisations to cut staff pay, Mr O’Brien said the formal position was that bodies which were substantially funded by public money should have general regard to public pay policy but were not obliged to follow it.

Mr Breslin said the Section 39 bodies had been asked to look at their cost base at the same time as this was happening in public sector.

He said they were not told there should be specified cuts to different salary bands. He said different organisations adopted different approaches at the time.

Mr Breslin suggested that resolution to the pay restoration issue in the Section 39 organisations was likely to be not as uniform as in the public service.