SIPTU calls for St Vincent's Care staff to be taken out of "limbo"

SIPTU calls for St Vincent's Care staff to be taken out of "limbo"
SIPTU are demanding intervention for the workers in St Vincent's Centre.

St Vincent's Care Centre is a residential facility for women of varying ages with mild to medium intellectual disabilities.

In March 2017, the company who ran the centre withdrew from service delivery. 

That company was established by the Sisters of Charity.

The HSE was required under Section 64.4 of the Health Act to take on service delivery on an interim basis, pending a transfer to a suitable disability service provider.

SIPTU says that The Cope Foundation is willing to take over the running of the centre, however, an ongoing dispute has prevented this from happening.

According to Sharon Cregan, SIPTU Health Divison Organiser, "there has been a dispute over who the staff's employer is since March 2017."

"Because the religious order was de-registered as the service provider, the HSE was legally required to step in as the default provider."

"Tax is being deducted from the staff's wages, but they have no access to social welfare, unemployment benefit, maternity leave and disability allowance."

"They are also not entitled to optical and dental benefits under the PRSI contributions scheme, despite paying PRSI."

"Staff pension contributions are being deducted from the staff's salaries, but staff are being advised by their pension scheme administrator that their scheme is 'closed off'," said Sharon.

SIPTU is calling on the Office of the Revenue Commissioners to intervene. 

"This facility is under Section 39, and there is an ongoing dispute over who is the legal 'employer' of these workers," said Sharon. 

"It is our understanding that there is a case before the High Court in respect of defining the 'actual employer' since the religious order stood down."

Section 39 organisations provide health services that are similar to HSE services. According to the HSE website, "they usually have charitable status and are also often registered companies... the staff of Section 39 organisations are not public servants, and Section 39 organisations are responsible for determining the salaries and terms and conditions of their staff."

In a statement to The Echo, the HSE said: "The company running St Vincent’s Centre withdrew from service provision in March 2017. The HSE/Cork Kerry Community Healthcare was then required under law (Section 64 of the Health Act 2007) to take on responsibility for the centre on an interim basis, pending a transfer to a suitable disability service provider."

"At all times, we have worked to provide stability and continuity for the vulnerable residents and the staff who look after them."

"We are pleased that COPE is to take over the running of the centre, as this is a positive move for both residents and staff, bringing certainty and stability and providing opportunities for the future. Work is continuing on the processes required to bring this transfer about."

"Notwithstanding the fact that under the Health Act our involvement has been on a temporary basis, we have also worked to engage with all stakeholders, including the Revenue Commissioners."

"Although our involvement is on an interim basis, we have worked to address many of the challenging legacy issues at St Vincent’s, unfortunately some remain outstanding."

"We are very conscious of the impact of the current situation in both residents and staff, which arises from the withdrawal of the company in 2017. We continue to make every effort to engage with the Sisters of Charity and their representatives to resolve the outstanding issues for residents and staff."

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