Public pay talks should tackle section 39 funding
by Bernard Harbor

The next round of public service pay negotiations should include talks on establishing “a structured, fair and sustainable funding model” for 'section 39' agencies, which provide housing, disability and other services on behalf of the State, according to Fórsa.


Speaking at the union’s Health Division conference in Sligo last week, Fórsa official Ian McDonnell said it was time to address “fundamental flaws” in the funding model for 'section 39' agencies, which are independent of the State but rely heavily or entirely on public funds to provide services and pay their staff.


Pay in most community and voluntary sector bodies was cut during the crisis, but it has not been restored in the same way as in the mainstream public service.


Ian said Fórsa had fought for a “long-overdue start to a pay restoration process” and that money was due to change hands shortly in many of the 50 organisations where the HSE is the primary funder. Talks are due to begin on rolling this process out to a further 254 bodies.


“Fórsa has played an instrumental role in delivering the recent 'section 39' pay restoration model via negotiations with the HSE under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).


“However it’s become obvious that, while we will put money back in our members’ pockets, it doesn't address the fundamental flaws in the 'section 39' funding model, which is perpetuating a two-tier approach that’s detrimental to service users and staff. The reluctance of some of 'section 39' organisations to cooperate with the financial validation required of them highlights the downside of an otherwise positive culture of independence in the sector.


“Creating a new, more effective fair and sustainable funding model is essential to support community services and those who use and provide them. This is a public service issue, and it should be addressed in the public service pay talks,” he said.


The conference passed motions calling for pay restoration in the sector.

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