Voluntary groups and charities whose staff have said they will strike from the middle of next month have been asked by the Department of Health to make contingency plans to maintain essential services to the thousands who depend on them for care and other supports.
Some 5,000 members of Fórsa, Siptu and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation voted overwhelmingly to participate in what will be an indefinite strike starting on October 17th, the unions said on Monday.
The action is part of a long-running dispute rooted in what staff and their representatives regard as a two-tier pay structure in the health and social services sectors that leaves workers employed by some voluntary organisations and charities with inferior pay and conditions to others doing the same or similar work for government agencies or related services. The workers are employed in agencies funded by State agencies such as the HSE and Tusla.
The better paid workers have either public sector status or comparable terms. The unions argue that those who are less fortunate are on average 12 per cent worse off.
Pay between the two groups used to be closely linked, Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Owen Reidy said on Monday, but became uncoupled since the financial crash, with pay restoration not applied to those not covered by public sector pay agreements.
“Whilst they’re technically not public servants they’re carrying out a critical public service. They are working with supporting and nurturing some of the most vulnerable citizens we have right across the country. And for too long the State has tried to do it on the cheap,” said Mr Reidy.
Services at 18 organisations including Cheshire Ireland, Enable Ireland and DePaul will be impacted from the outset if the strike goes ahead, with staff at additional organisations to be balloted if a resolution is not reached, according to the unions.
Mr Reidy said frontline staff at the various organisations would work with employers to ensure “arrangements are put in place to make sure emergency cover is provided. We take that very, very seriously.”
The Department of Health said it was disappointed by the decision of staff to strike. “Any industrial action will impact negatively on the people who use their services. The Department of Health urged all parties to work on resolving any disputes through the appropriate forums, in the interests of users of these services.
“Relevant agencies have been asked to engage in contingency planning with the relevant employer organisations so that any impact on those who depend on these essential services can be managed to the greatest extent possible.”
Voluntary organisations and charities due to take indefinite strike action from Tuesday, October 17th:
- Ardeen Cheshire Ireland
- Ability West
- Cheshire Ireland
- Cheshire Dublin
- Cheshire Home Newcastle West
- Co-action West Cork
- Cobh Hospital
- Daughters Of Charity Child and Family Service
- DePaul Ireland
- Don Bosco Care
- Enable Ireland (nationwide, including Cork, Tralee, East Coast and Midwest regions)
- Family Resource Centres
- Irish Wheelchair Association
- Kerry Parents and Friends
- St Catherine’s Association Ltd
- St Josephs Foundation
- St Luke’s Nursing Home
- Western Care Association