The Department of Health has committed that the HSE will bring forward a review of pay policy in agencies that are funded by the public health service, but which operate independently of the HSE (known as ‘section 39’ agencies).
Fórsa said the decision to undertake the review meant that its proposed industrial action in the sector would be averted.
The group of unions representing section 39 workers had sanctioned a strategy of industrial action to win pay restoration in the funded agencies. Fórsa sought to identify which of the agencies have failed to restore recession-era pay cuts, despite having relatively robust funding streams.
In correspondence to the group of unions last night (Monday 29th) the department confirmed that the HSE will take forward, as a matter of urgency, an evidence gathering exercise to establish the factual position.
The HSE is to engage with section 39 organisations with sizable staffing, and in receipt of significant public funding to:
- Establish whether, when and to what extent pay cuts were applied during the crisis in each relevant organisation
- Establish whether, when and to what extent pay restoration has happened
- Identify with appropriate supporting evidence the financial implications for each organisation, taking account of all sources of funding, associated with addressing the issues identified and to propose an appropriate plan for phased resolution in each case.
On completion of the analysis the HSE will present the results to the Department of Health for assessment, and to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) who will assist the parties with implementation.
Éamonn Donnelly, head of Fórsa’s Health & Welfare division, said the commitment to propose appropriate plans for phased resolution was crucial to resolving the dispute.
We began our campaign (Caring At What Cost) to restore pay in these agencies more than two years ago. We have argued since then that these workers cannot be left behind when workers in both the public and private sectors are seeing a consistent pattern of pay improvement during that period.
Mr Donnelly added that measures to ensure the assistance of the WRC with implementation was significant.
A number of employers in the sector have previously refused to participate in the WRC. We are still seeking the enforcement of participation in the WRC as a condition of service level agreements for these agencies. The assistance of the WRC in this context is therefore especially welcome.
Fórsa’s divisional executive has acknowledged that pay restoration across section 39 agencies is more complex than in the mainstream public service, because voluntary and community organisations have different funding arrangements. Essentially, some agencies are better able to fund pay restoration than others.
The union says a significant number of agencies have failed to act, even though they have the money to do so, and had planned to focus industrial action on these organisations.