Siptu says planned strike in health and social care sector to go ahead

HSE brings forward review of pay policy in voluntary agencies

 The  Department of Health/HSE submission said: “The Minister for Health has asked the HSE to take forward, as a matter of urgency, an evidence gathering exercise with section 39 organisations to establish the factual position regarding pay reductions and pay restoration. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Department of Health/HSE submission said: “The Minister for Health has asked the HSE to take forward, as a matter of urgency, an evidence gathering exercise with section 39 organisations to establish the factual position regarding pay reductions and pay restoration. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A planned strike involving several thousands staff in State-funded organisations providing health and social care services is to go ahead, Siptu has said.

The Forsa trade union (formerly Impact), which also represents workers in the so-called section 39 bodies, said on Tuesday its proposed industrial action had been averted after the Department of Health confirmed the HSE would bring forward a review of pay policy in such agencies.

Siptu said its planned one-day stoppage in a number of section 39 organisation on February 14th was still going ahead and it has warned of further strikes if the dispute is not resolved.

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, the union said.

However, Siptu maintained that unlike public servants working in the health and social care sectors, those in section 39 organisations had not been offered pay restoration proposals.

The issue is to be debated at the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday. In a joint opening statement submitted to the committee, the Department of Health and the HSE argued staff working in section 39 organisations were not public servants and were not covered by public service pay deals.

Financial assistance

The submission said the HSE provided financial assistance amounting in total to about €800 million to 2,224 section 39 organisations. It said such grants could range from very large amounts in their millions, to much lower amounts of just a few hundred euros.

“As the employer, it is a matter for section 39 organisations to negotiate salaries with their staff as part of their employment relationship and within the overall funding available for the delivery of agreed services.

“All agencies had their budgets cut during the financial crisis and were expected to make savings. Given that a large part of the budgets of these organisations are spent on pay, the pay budget was the logical place to start.

“While it is understood that pay cuts were imposed on section 39 employees, this was not uniform. Even where pay reductions were made, it is not clear how and when these cuts were actually applied in each case. We understand that different organisations did different things depending on their specific circumstances. There may have been increment freezes.

“There may have been a stop to all recruitment. The number of staff working in the agency may have been reduced over time. They needed to do more with less which is what they did.”

The joint Department of Health/HSE submission said it was clear there was a need for a much deeper understanding of the funding position in these grant -aided voluntary organisations, the extent to which pay reductions were made and the manner in which they were applied.

“The Minister for Health has asked the HSE to take forward, as a matter of urgency, an evidence gathering exercise with section 39 organisations to establish the factual position regarding pay reductions and pay restoration.

“ It is important that such an exercise is properly conducted, having regard to the need to ensure value for money for the taxpayer, given the significant sums involved, and appropriate treatment where the approach taken by agencies differs.

“Although this will be a very complex piece of work, it is anticipated that this process, will bring about the necessary clarity and transparency and, ultimately, an agreed way forward for all parties involved.”