Planned strike in health and social care agencies suspended

Siptu says new process will see pay restored for ‘Section 39’ staff on phased basis

Simon Harris told the Dáil on Thursday the HSE provided about €800 million in funding to over 2,200 Section 39 agencies. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Simon Harris told the Dáil on Thursday the HSE provided about €800 million in funding to over 2,200 Section 39 agencies. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A planned strike next week over pay restoration involving several thousand staff in State-funded organisations providing health and social care services has been suspended.

A one-day stoppage planned by members of the trade union Siptu has been deferred to allow for a new six-week process to take place.

The suspension of the planned industrial action comes on foot of an agreement facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Staff in so-called Section 39 agencies - which receive grant aid from the State but which are not considered to be public bodies - are seeking restoration of pay cuts along the lines of arrangements put in place by the Government for public servants.

Siptu said staff in many Section 39 organisations experienced pay cuts similar to those imposed on public service personnel working in State agencies offering similar type services after the economic crash.

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said: “After months of intense campaigning, Siptu representatives have secured a viable process for a structured and transparent pay restoration mechanism for thousands of Section 39 workers. The process has independent oversight, facilitated by the WRC, and will see pay restoration commence on a phased basis in 2018.

“This agreement commits the HSE and the Department of Health to a mechanism of pay restoration which is underpinned by strict timelines. The initial review to establish which Section 39 organisations have an established pay linkage with HSE organisations will be completed by the end of March 2018. Any disputes will be addressed by an agreed oversight body comprising of representatives of stakeholders and chaired by a WRC official.”

Mr Bell said another crucial development had been comments in the Dáil earlier this week by Minister for Health Simon Harris, “in which he conceded that this pay restoration process ‘will come with a bill that ultimately will need to be met’.”

Mr Bell said: “Due to the substantial progress that has been made, and in order to allow the process to commence, Siptu members have agreed to defer, for a period of six weeks, their strike action which was scheduled to commence on Wednesday, 14th February. The ball is now in the court of the management of the Section 39 organisations, which have been identified as having a pay link with the public service. They must now play their part in bringing about pay restoration for their staff. In particular, we are calling on Section 39 employers with outstanding Labour Court recommendations concerning this issue to commence pay restoration immediately.

“It was the brave decision to vote for strike action by our members in Section 39 organisations which brought about this progress towards pay restoration. They wish to acknowledge the support their campaign received from members of the Oireachtas, service users and their families. They also wish to acknowledge the work of the WRC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in securing an agreed process in relation to this dispute.”

Mr Harris told the Dáil on Thursday that the HSE provided about €800 million in funding to over 2,200 Section 39 agencies.

He said the level of funding provided ranged from millions of euro to just a few hundred euro.

The Minister said staff in Section 39 organisations were not subject to the provisions of financial emergency legislation (FEMPI), which underpinned pay cuts in the public service.

“They were not a party to the public service agreements and are not covered by the pay restoration provided for in these agreements. While it is understood that pay savings were made by the organisations, the precise mix of pay cuts or other savings measures will have varied. Also, where there were pay cuts, it is not at all clear that they were applied in a universally consistent manner, as is the case in the public sector,” said Mr Harris.

“Therefore, the Government believes that we need a much deeper understanding of the funding position in these grant - aided organisations and the true extent of the pay reductions applied. In establishing the position, I am obliged to have regard to the legitimate taxpayer and value for money issues that arise.

“That is why I have requested that the HSE engages with the Section 39 organisations to establish the facts around what cuts were applied and how and when they were implemented. A plan then needs to be developed in relation to possible solutions and their implementation.”