Opinion: Community workers have unfinished business
By Michele Rohan (SIPTU) and Ian Thomas (Fórsa, pictured above), CE Supervisors
Monday 21st September 2020
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, community workers have kept frontline services up and down the country going. We deliver a range of essential services from keeping our towns clean to providing a meals on wheels service to our older people. We support people in recovery through community drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, people experiencing domestic violence and give people leaving prison an opportunity to rebuild their lives. We also organise a range of after-school services for some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities. We make a real difference.
The feeling amongst the community workers is one of palpable anger. We believe we have been ignored for too long. That enough is enough.
We are putting the Government on notice that securing pay and pensions justice for workers in community services remains very much unfinished business.
For example, Community Employment (CE) Supervisors, like us, have waited for over 12 years for a pension. since the Labour Court ruled in our favour. The reality is that unless the Government gets real about funding a pension for those of us providing essential community services then the work will no longer be done. Every day we have to motivate ourselves to keep going and we know that we are not alone.
Community workers feel ignored, that we have been taken for granted. It seems the only way the Government is going to realise how important we are is if we stop working. Stop doing the job. Stop making the difference in our communities. We all know of former colleagues who have passed away while waiting on a fair pension. It breaks our hearts but it drives us on to win this battle.
The community sector has for too long been the poor relation of the public sector. The community sector has stepped in where the state has not provided necessary social and health services.
The community sector has for too long been the poor relation of the public sector, and has stepped in where the state has not provided necessary social and health services.
It is outrageous that after a lifetime of service in our communities we deserve a secure retirement. We effectively work for the State. A pension scheme is one of the things that marks out decent employers from those who wish to exploit workers. The fact that community workers in these state sponsored schemes are denied this basic entitlement is not acceptable and the politicians know this. The majority of them said so before the election in February.
These same politicians know in their hearts that community sector has long been the forgotten sector. The sector suffered disproportionate cuts during the austerity years yet our members have never been found wanting when it comes to providing quality public services. This issue is not going away.
Over the next number of weeks, SIPTU and Fórsa members are planning on intensifying our campaign for pensions and pay justice for community workers. We are putting the Government on notice that securing pay and pensions justice for workers in community services remains very much unfinished business.
Watch the campaign video HERE.