Cork city Solidarity TD Mick Barry has called on the Government to take responsibility for providing better pay for care sector workers.

Care workers strike over ‘stagnant’ pay

Care sector workers, some of whom have not seen their pay increased in 14 years, will strike tomorrow, Friday, on Leeside.

Workers at Enable Ireland in Curraheen will join 20 organisations in 5 counties as part of the Valuing Care, Valuing Community campaign which commenced yesterday.

The campaign is calling for improved funding and increased pay for organisations that receive state funding to provide health services but whose workers are not categorised as public sector workers.

Workers from St Joseph’s Foundation, Irish Wheelchair Association Cork, and Cork EmployAbility all took to the picket lines yesterday in Cork.

They will be followed today, Thursday, by organisations in Galway, Mayo and Donegal.

Over 1,000 workers are expected to take part in the campaign overall.

According to SIPTU, union members employed in community and Section 39 organisations received pay increases in line with national wage agreements up until the economic crisis in 2008.

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Speaking in Dáil Éireann yesterday, Cork city Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the state must take responsibility for providing better pay for care sector workers and could not “pass the buck” to their employers.

“These are Section 39 workers, most of whom have not received a pay increase in 14 years,” said Deputy Barry.

He continued: “They are demanding a pay increase, and in so doing they are acting to defend services that have been undermined by stagnant pay rates and which face a crisis of recruitment and retention.

“Will you make a provision for that funding in the budget next week or will you be stubborn and bloody-minded and provoke the escalation of this action, which nobody wants?”

Responding to Deputy Barry’s remarks, Green Party Leader and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan said there is a real issue regarding care sector workers’ pay but that the Government is not their direct employer.

Minister Ryan said: “Their employers are separate entities who have responsibility, legally and every other way for that. They’re not included within the Building Momentum agreement. That does not mean that we do not think that they should have similar rights and pay and other conditions to workers that do similar types of work.

“That is an issue they will through the employment labour organisations of the state, but it is something we (the Government) do not have direct control over.”

Speaking in the lead up to the 3 days of strike action, SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said the Government must sit down with the unions which represent the workers and agree a way forward.

“What unites this diverse group of workers is that they fill the gaps left by the State. They are often a lifeline for the most marginalised people in our society,” he said.

Writing in the Cork Independent, he said: “They provide some of our most vital services, caring for the vulnerable and maintaining our communities. Despite this, thousands of workers employed in community and Section 39 organisations have be left in the dire situation of being on the same rate of pay since 2008, and left with no way of securing a rise – apart from taking the campaign of industrial action they have now embarked on.” See page 30 for more.