People are demanding change – care workers need a pay rise

11 October 2022

• Dáil will debate Labour motion demanding pay rise for Section 39 care workers on Wednesday

Labour health spokesperson Duncan Smith said rather than a grant bridging the gap for people, as proposed by the Tánaiste last week in response to questioning by Labour leader Ivana Bacik, Section 39 workers must be put on the same statutory footing as their comparators in the HSE when it comes to pay and conditions.

Right now, the funding for Section 39 bodies is inconsistent and workers are not considered part of the public service, therefore often they are excluded from paid maternity leave, paid annual leave, pension schemes or public service pay levels. It’s time to care for the carers, says Deputy Smith, demanding that Government resolve the parity issue for workers.

Deputy Smith said:

“Section 39 care workers for people with disabilities, older persons or who require mental health supports deserve a pay rise. There are thousands of workers across Section 39 bodies who provide vital care services in communities across Ireland. This Government thinks that their goodwill will continue, but the time has come for pay restoration and for respect for workers who carry out the most crucial, frontline services.

“I was disappointed to hear the Tánaiste’s comments to Labour leader Ivana Bacik last week offering a grant to pay these workers for this year. This fundamentally misunderstands the root of the problem.

“Unlike trade union members in the public or private sector, care workers in the voluntary sector have no way to negotiate a pay increase. Many have no right to the fundamental employment rights all workers should expect, like paid annual leave, paid maternity leave and access to pension schemes.

“Their work is directly comparable to workers directly employed by the State who, if proposed increases in public sector pay are accepted by union members, will shortly be earning nearly 10% more than they do. It’s simply not fair and it’s time for change.

“On Wednesday we will say to Government: enough is enough. The Minister for Health’s lasting legacy could be to right the wrongs that have been let roll over by previous Health Ministers. Section 39 bodies were required to reduce pay during the economic crisis but the process of pay restoration has been much slower and patchy. The Tánaiste said pay rises for Section 39 organisations would be made through once off funding of €100m but this is not sustainable and excludes many others.

“This is why the Labour Party is now calling on the government to commit to a formal process to recognise and engage with workers in the sector and their trade unions, and ensure public sector pay rises are automatically passed on in future, to recognise this in Service Level Agreements, and commit to multiannual funding to provide certainty for providers, staff and service users. Care workers in Section 39 and similar organisations provide an immeasurable contribution to society, filling the gaps left by the State, providing a range of vital health and personal social services. The wheels of care in this State could not turn without them. It’s time that they were treated fairly by this government.”

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