Valentine’s Day trade union rally calls for new government to address “unfinished business”
Health workers in the community and voluntary sector will join community employment (CE) supervisors today (Friday) in a rally calling on the next government to address outstanding issues of pay and pensions in their respective sectors.
The rally is being organised under the auspices of the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (ICTU) Community Sector Committee behind a message for the new government: “Unfinished business: Don’t ignore community services.”
Community Employment (CE) supervisors are taking part in a 24-hour work stoppage today in a continuing dispute over the Government’s failure to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation to give CE supervisors access to an occupational pension scheme.
CE supervisors are taking part in a 24-hour work stoppage today in a continuing dispute over the Government’s failure to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation to give CE supervisors access to an occupational pension scheme.
Workers in a selected number of smaller ‘Section 39’ agencies, under which community and voluntary sector organisations are funded to deliver care and other services by the HSE, will take industrial action next Friday (21st February), marking the latest phase of the unions’ campaign for pay justice in independent organisations that rely on State funding to deliver vital health and care services.
Fórsa official Ian McDonnell said the next government would inherit the requirement to address the question of pension provision for all workers. “It’s a significant challenge, and one that must be top-of-mind for the next administration, given its prominence as a general election issue.
“In the meantime, it would reflect well on the new administration to quickly deal with the unfinished business of CE supervisors. The cost of implementing the terms of the Labour Court’s 2008 recommendation from 2008 to 2019, to cover the implementation of agreeable pension compensation, is €31 million, and €3.5 million per annum is the cost of introducing a 6% weekly employer pension contribution.
“There are over a thousand workers, many retired or approaching retirement, for whom the failure to implement the Labour Court’s recommendation has caused significant anguish and, for many, financial difficulties. They weathered the delay caused by the economic crisis, but the inexplicable delay of the last couple of years, during which the economy has been in robust health, reflects poorly on the outgoing government. This needs to be addressed urgently by the incoming administration,” he said.
There are over a thousand workers, many retired or approaching retirement, for whom the failure to implement the Labour Court’s recommendation has caused significant anguish and, for many, financial difficulties.
SIPTU official Eddie Mullins said the outgoing Fine Gael administration invited the two unions which represent CE Scheme supervisors, SIPTU and Fórsa, into a talks process last year following strike action by the supervisors in February 2019: “Nobody in government managed to present any proposals to resolve this long running dispute. This is despite union efforts to present constructive solutions to a problem that has been allowed to fester for far too long, and despite a commitment included in the 2015 Lansdowne Road Agreement that progress would be made on this issue during the lifetime of that agreement, which expired in 2018.
“The incoming administration, however it is composed, needs to recognise that there are a group of workers here who need to have the right to an occupational pension, upheld by the Labour Court 12 years ago, fully implemented,” he said.
While unions have been successful in achieving pay restoration for significant numbers of members employed in Section 39 organisations, members in smaller workplaces have yet to have the terms of the deal, agreed at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in October of 2018, applied to them.
Fórsa official Catherine Keogh said members in a number of smaller employments were now ready to take industrial action next week. “Every stage of pay restoration for workers in the Section 39 agencies has been hard fought. It has been a test of endurance for people who deliver vital health services in the community, for whom other work opportunities means we’re now witnessing much higher staff turnover in employments providing vital care services.
“The failure to complete the pay restoration process is putting the sustainability of these services at risk, which would place the burden of service delivery back on HSE,” she said.
The failure to complete the pay restoration process is putting the sustainability of these services at risk, which would place the burden of service delivery back on HSE.
SIPTU Public and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “Within the sector there is often a blatant disregard by employers for industrial relations norms. Many workers in the sector were subject to pay cuts during the austerity years that equalled those imposed on their colleagues in the public sector.
“There is an opportunity now for a new government to recognise that resolving these outstanding issues would be beneficial for the communities served by these workers, ensuring stability and industrial peace after years of fractious and avoidable uncertainty,” he said.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “Our members in these organisations, all low paid workers, are falling further behind, having endured cuts in pay of approximately 6% and also suffering a cut in their hours which has had a knock-on effect on service users and their families. They now have been left with no option other than to take action,” he said.
Representatives of both groups will rally at 12noon at the Customs House in Dublin and proceed to the offices of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) at Merrion Street. The rally will be addressed by a number of workers from both sectors and by Fórsa General Secretary Kevin Callinan and SIPTU Deputy General Secretary John King from 12:45pm.