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Supporters of Section 39 workers on strike outside NCBI Drumcondra in February this year. Sam Boal/
Section 39 workers

HSE and unions strike deal on pay for voluntary health and social-service providers

During the economic crisis, Section 39 organisations were told by the HSE to cut staff pay – but they were not restored.

UNIONS AND THE HSE have struck an agreement for around 7,000 people working for voluntary health and social service providers, ending a long-running dispute.

During the economic crisis, Section 39 organisations were instructed by the HSE to cut staff pay in line with reductions in pay for public servants. But staff in these agencies were not covered by subsequent public service pay agreements that restored their pay.

Siptu and Fórsa confirmed that unions have made a “significant breakthrough” on pay restoration for members in 250 State-funded voluntary providers.

It will mean that €1,000 increase in the workers’ annual pay will be given in two installments: the first in January and the second in June of next year.

The unions are now recommending that industrial action planned for next week by Siptu and Fórsa members in Cork and Kerry be suspended.

The breakthrough for ‘Section 39′ workers follows a conciliation conference held under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Section 39 Dail SIPTU members Liz Cloherty, Maria Power and Stephanie Lee calling on Government to give Section 39 workers’ pay justice. November 2017. SIPTU SIPTU

Siptu Divisional Organiser Adrian Kane, said: “This interim settlement is well overdue but it delivers money into the pockets of our members’ pockets from next month – and that is critically important. The issue of parity of treatment with colleagues in the larger section 39 employments hasn’t gone away and when the parties reconvene again at the WRC in 2021, SIPTU representatives will be fighting to ensure that all monies outstanding for our members are paid in full.”  

Fórsa official Catherine Keogh said: “This has been an exceptionally challenging year for these workers. Our one-day strike took place on 14 February, which was just a few weeks before the Covid-19 crisis hit and these are the workers whose professionalism and experience was called upon like never before in response to that crisis. This is a welcome breakthrough, and some good news at the end of a long and very difficult year for them.”

Political reaction

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Mairéad Farrell welcomed the news.

“These 250 organisations were not included in the original WRC brokered agreement which arranged for pay restoration for the 50 largest organisations.

“Thankfully after a long struggle, the remaining 250 will now begin to have their pay restored thanks to a deal brokered in the WRC late yesterday.

This is great achievement for the workers, who have fought long and hard for pay justice.

SocDems co-leader Róisín Shortall welcomed the breakthrough. 

“Section 39 workers do the same work as their public service counterparts and deserve equal pay. I now call on the Minister for Health to include union representatives in the Dialogue Forum with Voluntary Bodies.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to write to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, and request that membership of the Dialogue Forum with Voluntary Bodies be increased to include union representatives.

The trade unions have argued that this forum can contribute to the resolution of the long-term structural issues in the sector and their inclusion is consistent with the commitments in the Programme for Government to wider and deeper social dialogue.

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