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Hundreds of healthcare workers to strike today in dispute over pay restoration

Siptu members employed by Section 39 organisations are taking strike action across the country.

Siptu members Liz Cloherty, Maria Power and Stephanie Lee calling on Government to give Section 39 workers’ pay justice outside Leinster House in 2017
Siptu members Liz Cloherty, Maria Power and Stephanie Lee calling on Government to give Section 39 workers’ pay justice outside Leinster House in 2017
Image: Siptu via RollingNews.ie

HUNDREDS OF SIPTU members employed by Section 39 organisations are taking strike action today in an effort to resolve a dispute over pay restoration. 

Section 39 organisations are voluntary organisations which have service legal agreements with the HSE to provide health and social care within communities.

These workers receive dual salary funding between the HSE and voluntary contributions. 

Their main salary funding comes from the HSE through a grant. The grant was cut back in 2010, leading Section 39 salaries to be cut in line with those in the public sector.

Siptu says that members in the Section 39 organisations have “endured cuts in pay of approximately 6% and a reduction in their hours”. 

The trade union said this had had “a knock-on effect on service users and their families”. 

Siptu has repeatedly said that while public sector staff are beginning to see pay restoration, that isn’t the case for all Section 39 workers.

“The treatment of these vital community health workers, who work in areas such as home care, dementia and Alzheimer services, is totally unacceptable,” Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said. 

“Strike action is the only option left open to our members to policy makers and those who fund the services to sit up and take notice,” he said. 

It must be noted that an agreement was reached at the Workplace Relations Commission in October 2018 which provided pay restoration in relation to 50 ‘pilot’ organisations. This pay restoration is underway, according to the Department of Health. 

The Department said the WRC agreement also recognised that some of the remaining Section 39 organisations “are likely to have pay restoration issues also”. 

“It was agreed that a process to address these will be agreed. The HSE are currently carrying out preparatory work in relation to this group,” it said. 

“It is important to note that this WRC agreement did not guarantee pay restoration for every Section 39 organisation which receives funding from the HSE.” 

The Department added: “As health sector management remain committed to this process, it is clear that any industrial action is unwarranted.”  

Those striking today are asking to pay their pay progressed in line with public service workers.  

“During this entire dispute our members demonstrated great compassion and responsibility by doing everything in their power to achieve a legitimate objective without affecting services to vulnerable clients and will continue to do so,” Siptu sector organiser Eddie Mullens said. 

Section 39 organisations set to strike today include: 

  • Valentina Hospital, Kerry
  • St Joseph’s Care Home, Kilorgin, Kerry
  • Delta Care
  • National Council of the Blind in Ireland
  • Western Alzheimer’s
  • St Mary Telford
  • South West Doctors
  • Galway Rape Crisis

There are roughly 6,000 members involved in the dispute nationally and strikes will be rolled out on a phased basis around the country over the coming weeks, Siptu said. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE said it “regrets that industrial action is planned for [today] as it will affect patient and client services”. 

“Each community healthcare organisation, in which the agency sits, are engaging directly to establish any effect on the service they deliver on behalf of the HSE so that any appropriate mitigation can be identified,” the HSE said. 

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