The averting of a strike by 5,000 health and social care workers in voluntary organizations and charities, due to start on Tuesday, has been widely welcomed with employers in the sector saying the Government’s commitment to more funding is important.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, after 14 hours of talks, a breakthrough was achieved in a long-running dispute over the pay gap that has emerged in recent years between staff who work for voluntary organizations and those who do largely the same work for the HSE or other government agencies.
Under the terms of the agreement, which will be presented to members of Fórsa, Siptu and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization in the coming weeks, workers in the sector would receive an 8 per cent pay rise, with 3 per cent retroactive to April 1. , 2 percent from November 1 and 3 percent from March 1 of the following year.
In addition, the two sides pledged to return to the WRC before December 1 to formulate a broader plan on pay that should pave the way for pay parity during the next public sector pay deal.
The agreement reached shows that the Government “recognizes the need to ensure sustainable financing in this very important sector.” The lack of funding meant that there was a significant recruitment and retention challenge in the sector”.
“The government acknowledges,” the text continues, “that wages for workers in Section 39, Section 56 and Section 10 organizations have lagged behind equivalent and comparable pay grades in public sector organizations and is committed to fully resolving this issue before the expiration of any agreement.” on inheriting Building Momentum.”
The sections referred to refer to the parts of the law under which organizations have a contract to provide services for health and disability (S39), children (S56) and homelessness (S10).
There was a certain disappointment on the part of the trade union that the prospects for the requested wage parity were not realized more immediately, but also satisfaction that the Government ensured the obligation to solve this problem.
Kevin Figgis, organizer of the health department at Siptu, said that “the talks have culminated in a package that we believe will solve that problem and sets out a map of how it will be done”.
He said those involved in the negotiations were well aware of the difficulties thousands of vulnerable service users would have faced if industrial action had gone ahead as planned.
Clearly, this was also a factor for the government side.
John O’Sullivan, chief executive of Enable Ireland, whose 1,400 staff provide services to around 13,000 adults and children in 40 centers across the country, said the organization was greatly relieved to be warned of the strike.
“We did the math and talked to the unions and were prepared for total disruption in all but our residential and respite services, but even those would be down to the bare bones,” he said.
The terms of the agreement, he said, were up to the organization’s staff to judge, but “an official recognition of the need for more funding for the sector, that is very welcome. The current situation is unsustainable.
“As employers, we would like to make sure that additional costs such as PRSI and pensions will be addressed as some of them were left out last time.
“The other problem is that the path back to parity is a little unclear,” he added. “In five years, we fell behind by 10 percent, and we must make sure that this does not happen again. There has to be some clarity around when we’re all going to be aligned.”
The Department for Children, Equality and Disability has been approached for comment.