SouthDoc among services affected by strike action today

SouthDoc among services affected by strike action today
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

HUNDREDS of staff in state-funded organisations across Cork have gone on strike this morning in a dispute over pay restoration.

Trade unions Siptu and Fórsa served notice for a 24-hour stoppage today at the National Council of the Blind In Ireland; Western Alzheimer’s; Co-Action Bantry; South West Doctors; St Joseph’s Killorglin, Co Kerry and Valentia Hospital and more.

The dispute centres around the refusal of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) to honour a recent pay restoration agreement.

Section 39 workers are classed as private-sector workers but their employers are grant-aided by the HSE to provide services mainly in the health and social services sectors.

Traditionally, their pay has been linked to rates in the public service.

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.

SIPTU's Paddy Cole highlighted the impact the strike will have in Cork.

"The planned strike action will take place in South Doc in Middleton, Blackpool and Mallow. There is also action in Co-Action in Skibbereen and Bantry. Regrettably, despite our best efforts to agree a fair contingency plan for responding to emergencies the service will experience serious disruption."

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.

"SIPTU representatives have fought long and hard to win a pay restoration formula that could be applied across Section 39 organisations and the continued refusal of these organisations, aided and abetted by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to vindicate their rights will not be tolerated by our members.” The CEO of one of the organisations affected, the NCBI, highlighted the inaction of the HSE as a major factor of the strike action.

Chris White said the strike is having knock-on effect in the NCBI’s ability to deliver services to blind or visually impaired people with assessments and other activities being postponed.

“We understand why our staff are taking this action as we have tried multiple avenues to resolve this with the HSE but to no avail,” said Mr White.

“It has been a very frustrating and exhausting process for us and our staff have been extremely patient especially when similar roles within the HSE or within similar Section 39 organisations have had their pay restored.

“This blatant discrimination between staff in similar roles cannot continue,” he added.

“NCBI were not in the original group of 50 Section 39 organisations who were to have their pay restoration claims resolved and some of those organisations are still waiting.

“But more worrying is the HSE have not engaged with any of us to build a roadmap towards full restoration of pay for our staff.

“This lack of commitment by the HSE continues to make our staff feel devalued and under-appreciated.” The 24-hour strike will also have a major impact on SouthDoc, the GP out-of-hours service across Cork, according to a doctor in the Rebel County.

Up to 100 staff are striking from SouthDoc alone.

“The SouthDoc staff are vital cogs in the wheel,” said Dr Nick Flynn of MyCorkGP.ie.

“Without them, there would be no SouthDoc and we’d be back to the old system where doctors are forced to look after the admin, stock and other issues as well as the patients.

“SouthDoc couldn’t actually function in its current format without the admin staff and drivers,” he added.

“They do so much and ensure that doctors can focus on patients.”

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