Thousands of health and social care workers to go on strike

Industrial action over pay to begin at a host of State-funded bodies on February 14th

Thousands of Siptu members in State-funded organisations providing health and social care are to stage a one-day strike on February 14th in a dispute over pay restoration. Photograph: Jimmy Weldon.

Thousands of Siptu members in State-funded organisations providing health and social care are to stage a one-day strike on February 14th in a dispute over pay restoration. Photograph: Jimmy Weldon.

 

Thousands of staff in State-funded organisations providing health and social care are to stage a one-day strike on February 14th in a dispute over pay restoration.

Siptu members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a ballot which was counted on Monday. The trade union said other stoppages would be announced at a later date

The strike would involve staff at Rehab Ireland, the Cheshire Foundation, Western Care in Co Mayo, St Joseph’s Foundation in Co Cork, SOS Kilkenny, Ability West, Wicklow Community and Family Services, SOS Workshops and Marymount University Hospital and Hospice, Curraheen, Co Cork, Siptu said.

Staff in many voluntary organisations which receive State funding to provide health and social care services -- known technically as Section 39 bodies -- 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 employed in Section 39 organisations had not been offered pay restoration proposals.

The Department of Health said arrangements were being finalised for a process to establish the factual position regarding pay reductions and pay restoration in the Section 39 organisations.

The department said it was s anticipated that this process would “ bring about the necessary clarity and transparency, as well as an agreed way forward for all parties involved”.

“It is important to note that staff in these organisations are not public servants and, as such, were not subject to the provisions of FEMPI legislation and are not entitled to the pay restoration provided for in the public service agreements.”

“Whilst it is understood that pay cuts were implemented in many section 39 organisations, it is not clear if these cuts were applied in a universally consistent manner across all section 39 agencies. So while staff may have been subject to cuts, it is not known if the cuts were to the same extent as those applied to public servants. There are significant cost implications to be considered.”

‘Clear mandate’

Paul Bell, Siptu’s health division organiser, said the 97 per cent vote in favour of the action provided “a clear mandate to strike in the workplaces selected to take part in the initial round of industrial action”.

“The ballot result is an expression of the unprecedented level of both disappointment and anger of our members at the failure of their employers and Government to respect their legitimate entitlement to pay restoration,” he said. “Our members are also incensed with the lack of a response by their employers and Government to the unanimous vote earlier this month in Dáil Éireann in support of a Fianna Fáil Private Members’ Bill which called for pay restoration for workers in Section 39 organisations.”

Mr Bell said the Taoiseach had previously confirmed there was a long established pay link between Section 39 organisations and public sector employers.

“He must now intervene in this dispute and ensure that Section 39 organisations are adequately resourced in order to facilitate the implementation of the outstanding Labour Court recommendations concerning this issue and allow for local negotiation to commence on pay restoration.”

Mr Bell said trade unions would attend a hearing of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health scheduled for this Wednesday to discuss their members’ campaign for pay restoration.

Similar ballots

He said the members of the Unite trade union in Section 39 organisations in the south east have also voted in favour of strike action. He said two other unions were preparing similar ballots for industrial action.

The Department of Health said arrangements were being finalised for a process to establish the factual position regarding pay reductions and pay restoration in the Section 39 organisations.

The department said it was s anticipated that this process would “ bring about the necessary clarity and transparency, as well as an agreed way forward for all parties involved”.

“Whilst it is understood that pay cuts were implemented in many section 39 organisations, it is not clear if these cuts were applied in a universally consistent manner across all section 39 agencies,” the department said.

“So while staff may have been subject to cuts, it is not known if the cuts were to the same extent as those applied to public servants. There are significant cost implications to be considered.”