Home helps to ballot for strike action in dispute over pay restoration

Siptu also suggests row brewing in National Ambulance Service in coming months

Up to 500 home-help staff working in community and disability services across Dublin city and county are to be balloted for strike action early in the new year, the trade union Siptu has said.

The union also warned on Monday that its members in the National Ambulance Service (NAS) were "at an advanced stage of planning a national mobilising campaign to win respect and recognition for all ambulance professionals" .

“Our members, across all grades in the NAS, are determined to secure a focus from Government including, if necessary, the possibility of a ballot for industrial action early in the new year,” the union said.

“Our members are no longer ‘van’ drivers. They have, over a relatively short period of time, developed into a highly skilled workforce with the ability to make key clinical decisions and to administer lifesaving medications to patients suffering trauma, cardiac arrest or stroke. That deserves to be recognised.”

The dispute involving home-help workers centres on the restoration of pay in organisations providing health and social care services that receive State grant aid (known technically as section 39 bodies) that was reduced following the economic crash.

The union said some section 39 organisations had failed to honour a national pay restoration agreement brokered under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission between Siptu representatives, the Health Service Executive, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said the balloting of up to 500 home-help workers would commence on January 20th and "include organisations such as Terenure Home Helps Services, Crumlin Home Care Services, Dublin West Home Care Services, Trinity Home Care Services, North Inner City Home Care Services and Fingal Home Care Services".

These organisations formed part of a group of 50 section 39 bodies that participated in a pilot review of cuts made following the economic crash.

“Siptu representatives have done everything possible to secure payment owed to our members in section 39 organisations since a deal was brokered on April 30th, 2019,” Mr Bell said.

Pay cuts

“Our members in these organisations, all low-paid workers, are falling further behind, having endured cuts in pay of approximately 6 per cent, and also suffering a cut in their hours which has had a knock-on effect on service users and their families. They now have been left with no option other than to take action.”

The union warned that hundreds of other section 39 organisations that were outside of the pilot review also faced ballots for industrial action in the weeks ahead.

“These organisations, approximately 250 in total, will be balloted for strike action by Siptu and other trade unions involved in this dispute, around the third week of January. These organisation are located in every corner of the country, many are household names in the provision of health and social services.”

The HSE, in its 2020 service plan published before Christmas, suggested it may face difficulties in providing funding to meet the cost of pay restoration in section 39 organisations that were outside the 50 involved in the pilot review.

Siptu also said that throughout 2019, its representatives participated in a review of the skillsets of ambulance professionals with a specific focus on emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

“The findings of this review, set to be published in early 2020, are likely to confirm what Siptu members already believe, that the role of all frontline ambulance professionals has evolved through education and training to the standard expected of health and social care professionals,” Mr Bell said.