Pay rises secured for staff in health groups as industrial action is averted

Pay rises secured for staff in health groups as industrial action is averted

SIPTU union members pictured at a protest outside the constituency offices of the Taoiseach in Cork on December 2. Planned industrial action has been averted after unions have made a breakthrough on pay restoration for members in 250 State-funded voluntary health and social service providers – known as Section 39 agencies. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Planned industrial action has been averted after unions have made a breakthrough on pay restoration for members in 250 State-funded voluntary health and social service providers – known as Section 39 agencies.

A pay deal was secured yesterday following talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Planned industrial action by members of Fórsa and SIPTU in Cork and Kerry next week has been suspended on foot of the agreement between the group of unions (led by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions) and the HSE for two phases of pay restoration to be implemented next year. 

The first instalment will be a payment of up to €1,000 annual increase in salary, effective January 1, 2021 and will be paid in January 2021.

A second instalment, equating to 50% of outstanding restoration due, will take effect from May 31, 2021 and will be paid in June 2021.

During the financial crisis, Section 39 workers pay was cut in line with public servants but was not restored in parallel with government employees as restoration got underway.

In 2019 an agreement covering 50 larger Section 39 employments was approved by unions and was followed by talks to achieve a similar agreement for the remaining 250 smaller employments in the sector.

Failure to reach agreement led to a one-day strike by Fórsa members in a number of agencies last February.

Fórsa official Catherine Keogh said the agreement reached yesterday was a significant breakthrough for Section 39 workers.

"This has been an exceptionally challenging year for these workers.

"Our one-day strike took place on February 14, 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," she said.

SIPTU’s divisional organiser Adrian Kane echoed this sentiment. 

"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," he said.

"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 will be fighting alongside our partner unions to ensure that all monies outstanding for our members are paid in full," he continued.

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

Unions believe this forum can contribute to resolving long-term structural issues in the sector.

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