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Cork Independent


‘We’re quite angry’

Wednesday, 19th February, 2020 5:13pm

“It's come to the point now, where if we have to, we'll carry on striking, even though we don't want to.”

Those were the words of frustrated Clonakilty support worker Liam Erridge, one of many Section 39 employees around the country who will go on strike this Friday due to an pay dispute with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER). Last week trade union SIPTU informed its members of plans to enter a 24 hour work stoppage due to claims for pay restoration for workers.

The decision to take industrial action was made following the refusal of the DPER to follow through on promises made to restore workers’ wages to what they were before the economic downturn.

Section 39 employees are not considered public servants, however their employers are grant-aided by the HSE to provide services mainly in the health and social services sectors.

“It's not a pay increase. It's restoring the pay that we lost before,” he said.

“We were told that we would be getting our pay restored. We thought it all had been agreed, but then it just didn’t happen,” Mr Erridge told the Cork Independent.
He added: “We’re striking to get our pay restoration returned, which is our right. We all work hard, we put the hours in and we’re entitled to it. We’re quite angry about it.”
Mr Erridge is an employee of CoAction, the designated service provider for children and adults with an intellectual disability and autism in the West Cork area.
The organisation currently provides services for 598 children and 140 adults across branches in Castletownbere, Clonakilty, Dunmanway, Skibbereen and Bantry.
Mr Erridge said that he feels he and his colleagues have been “left behind” by the Government and that further action will be taken if necessary.
He continued: “Up until now we haven’t really stood up for ourselves, but the last thing we want to do is strike. If on Friday morning it’s called off, I’ll say ‘thank God for that’. However, if we have to do more strike days, we will.”
Also speaking to the Cork Independent in the lead up to Friday’s strike, was Sharon Cregan of SIPTU Health Division, who said that, without the workers in question, the Irish health service would be in an “even worse place”.
“These people need to be recognised for the work that they do. They just want their pay restored to the level that it was and that it should be at,” said Ms Cregan.
Another organisation that will be impacted by Friday’s strike is out of hours family doctor service SouthDoc, which has centres across Cork and Kerry, and whose administration staff and drivers fall under Section 39 employment.
According to SIPTU representative for SouthDoc in Cork, Liam Allen, approximately 250 Section 39 organisations across the country employ staff whose wages have not been restored.
He said: “There were 300 overall. The first 50 have been restored. The remaining 250 have not, and SouthDoc is one of those.”
Mr Allen added: “The members at SouthDoc, who always had pay linkage to their colleagues in the public sector, haven’t had a pay increase in two years.”
SouthDoc services will be available on Friday, despite the strike.

A statement from the Department of Health said: "An agreement reached at the WRC in October 2018 provided for pay restoration in relation to 50 ‘pilot' organisations. This pay restoration is underway. The WRC agreement also recognised that some of the remaining Section 39 organisations (250 approximately) are likely to have pay restoration issues also. It was agreed that a process to address these will be agreed. The HSE are currently carrying out a costing exercise in relation to this group. It is important to note that this WRC agreement did not guarantee pay restoration for every section 39 organisation which receives funding from the HSE. As health sector management remain committed to this process, it is clear that any industrial action is unwarranted."

The DPER was contacted for response, however no official was available to speak as of going to print.

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