'We're looking for pay parity': Community and care sector workers in Cork picket over pay and conditions

The industrial action by members of the Fórsa trade union, which saw pickets at Enable Ireland’s premises in Curraheen and in Tralee, was part of a series of three consecutive one-day strike actions in care agencies in the community and care sector.
'We're looking for pay parity': Community and care sector workers in Cork picket over pay and conditions

Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

Dozens of health and social care workers picketed Enable Ireland’s Lavanagh Centre in Curraheen in Cork on Friday, demanding pay parity with HSE and other health professionals.

The industrial action by members of the Fórsa trade union, which saw pickets at Enable Ireland’s premises in Curraheen and in Tralee, was part of a series of three consecutive one-day strike actions in care agencies in the community and care sector.

Strike action by community and care sector care staff previously took place this week at St Joseph’s Foundation in Charleville, Ability West in Galway and Western Care in Mayo.

Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

The Fórsa strike action is part of the Irish Conference of Trade Unions’ Valuing Care, Valuing Community campaign.

The campaign aims to achieve improved terms and conditions of employment for health and social care professionals and other staff employed in agencies funded by the HSE and other State bodies, where staff are employed on lower pay and lesser conditions than equivalent grades in the HSE and other agencies.

Section 38 employees are classed as public servants, while workers on section 39 contracts are provided funding under Section 39 of the Health Act, 2004, and are not classified as public servants, and do not benefit from public sector pay deals.

Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

Fórsa assistant general secretary Eddie Walsh told The Echo the industrial action was about a demand for equal pay for equal work.

“What we’re looking for is pay parity for our members who are working in Section 39 agencies like St Joseph’s Foundation, like Enable Ireland. 

"We’re providing like-for-like work as our colleagues within Section 38 agencies, the likes of those within Cork would be the Brothers of Charity, the Cope Foundation and the HSE,” Mr Walsh said.

“We have members within various disciplines such as health and social care professionals, or physios, occupational therapists, psychologists, so forth, and we’re undertaking the exact same work as colleagues within Section 38s and the HSE, but we are getting inferior terms conditions are on lesser pay.” 

Mr Walsh added that there would have been a link between pay scales for Section 38 and Section 39 workers, but that link was broken in 2008, and many Section 39 workers have not received a pay increase in the 14 years since.

With very high job vacancy rates in the sector, he said, up to a third of staff in Section 39 agencies are leaving their jobs each year to seek better employment in similar work elsewhere.

“We are calling for urgent Government action to address the funding of organisations in the sector, to make pay improvements for staff, to stem the high rate of staff exits each year and to fulfil recruitment targets for vital health services, including disability and homeless services,” Mr Walsh said.

Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

Labour Local Area Rep for Cork city, Peter Horgan, said the Government needed to engage directly with trade unions representing Section 39 workers.

“These workers are working with the most vulnerable in our communities and deserve the same rates of pay and superannuation as their colleagues in the HSE and Section 38,” Mr Horgan said.

“For the Government to shrug their shoulders and say ‘not our problem’ is simply not good enough. The impact on recruitment and retention is being felt by workers but also by families and service users in the likes of Enable Ireland.

Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.
Staff members of Enable Ireland, FÓRSA section 39 workers, participating in the ICTU Valuing Care Campaign seeking pay parity with the public service, pictured outside the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

“Government contracts out State work but refuses to pay State wages,” Mr Horgan said.

“Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party need to engage with trade unions to fix this matter.

Noting that the budget was a week away, he said this matter could be fixed with the stroke of a pen over the weekend.

“Don’t force workers to strike again,” Mr Horgan said.

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