Cork health and care services including Marymount Hospice and St Joseph’s Foundation are facing disruption due to strike action.
SIPTU members employed by Section 39 organisations across the country have voted by 97% in favour of commencing an industrial action, beginning with a one-day stoppage on Wednesday, February 14.
Staff of Section 39 organisations such as these are not classed as public servants and are not specifically subject to public pay scales, although the organisations are funded by the HSE.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said this distinction is being used to unfairly deny staff restoration of pay lost during the recession.
“People are at the end of their tether, they are very upset about the whole thing,” he said. “There is no plan for pay restoration. The HSE are saying that these organisations are standalone. But at the same time, they cut the block grant (during the recession) and directed that people working in Section 39s have their wages cut.
“They then gave a circular out to all section 39s saying you will receive pay claims from the unions seeking restoration. You are not to concede to them, you are to go to the WRC and the Labour Court structure and we will be here to advise you along the way. That doesn’t sound like a standalone organisation to me.”
However, a Department of Health spokesperson reiterated that the employees are not public servants and said there were ‘significant cost implications to be considered’.
"Arrangements are being finalised for a process to establish the factual position regarding pay reductions and pay restoration in the Section 39 organisations.
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. 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."
Mr Bell said he expects the industrial action to escalate but said his members would be working to minimise upset to patients.
“Regrettably services at these institutions will be disrupted. However, I want to reassure service users and their guardians and parents that we will do our very best to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable.”