Overworked and Underpaid: A Collective Injustice
Seán McElhinney, assistant general secretary
Service managers in St Michael’s House are overworked and underpaid compared to their counterparts in other Section 38 organisations and elsewhere in the HSE.
Service managers manage a range of services for children and adult service users in residential care settings and day services. These workers have a range of management and leadership responsibilities within their essential services.
In St John of God Community Services, the Daughters of Charity, Sunbeam House Services, and within the direct employment of the HSE, service managers are paid at Grade VIII for their work.
In St Michael’s House, however, service managers are all paid less than Grade VIII.
Fórsa has put to the employer that we hold some of our members to be the subjects of an act that might constitute unlawful discrimination.
We believe that the employer has failed to ensure our members’ right to equal pay for like work.
We believe that the employer has failed to ensure our members’ right to equal pay for like work. The employer has so far denied our claim, blaming the HSE for failing to resolve the situation.
In 2017, service managers in St Michael’s House were recruited to a post attracting a basic salary of €47,015. While the employer promised a review at the time, they have failed to make good on that promise.
Since 2017, following successive pay deals negotiated by Fórsa and other trade unions, the post in St Michael’s House now attracts a basic salary of €50,834. Elsewhere, in the HSE and other Section 38 organisations, service managers are remunerated with a basic salary of €69,676.
A negative disparity of €18,842 exists between new-starts in St Michael’s House and other comparable workplaces. Such unfairness is totally unacceptable to our Union.
To put it in perspective, €18,842 would pay for full-time childcare for a working family for two years, or it could mean the difference for a single, first-time buyer between a house with a purchase price of €197,688 and one with a purchase price of €348,380. That’s the difference between getting to live close to where you work or having to live 80 miles away.
Unions believe that there are almost twenty workers affected by this matter.
In meetings with St Michael’s House, the employer has claimed that the HSE prohibits a resolution to the matter. However, the HSE has previously denied liability for such claims in correspondence involving a Fórsa member elsewhere in a Section 38 funded employment.
If all the constructive talks fail, Fórsa will act collectively to assert the rights of our members to pay justice.
The issue of the HSE’s overbearing involvement in matters of local governance outside of their own direct employments is well-known and longstanding. The HSE often influences employers in matters of local pay and conditions, knowing that they can deny liability for any disputes.
As such, in St Michael’s House, Fórsa is working closely with the INMO to organise our service manager grades. If all the constructive talks fail, Fórsa will act collectively to assert the rights of our members to pay justice.
Collective action is where the power of the workforce lies, and no employer should be surprised that we might depend upon it when it comes to workplace justice.
Collective action and collective bargaining mean workers coming together to coordinate their engagement with the employer. The means to do this is through a union.
While employers will often try to diminish collective disputes and implement individual resolutions to widespread problems, workers can challenge the employer through their Union.
Unions provide a democratically determined collective voice, a collective position, a means for collective bargaining, and, if necessary, mobility for collective action.
All workers should be part of the collective. All workers should join a union, and all union members should recruit their co-workers.
Injustice might only be a day away.
19th July 2021