Section 39 industrial action mooted
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa’s Health and Welfare divisional executive has approved a campaign of industrial action to win pay restoration in agencies that are funded by the public health service, but which operate independently of the HSE. The union is identifying which of these ‘section 39’ agencies have failed to restore recession-era pay cuts, even though they have relatively robust funding streams.


The divisional executive acknowledged that pay restoration across section 39 agencies was more complex than in the mainstream public service, because voluntary and community organisations have different funding arrangements. In other words, some are better able to fund pay restoration than others.


Yet the union says a significant number of agencies have failed to act, even though they have the money to do so. It intends to focus industrial action on these organisations.


Most section 39 agencies cut pay – at least to the same degree as the public service – between 2009 and 2011. In many cases this was on foot of public funding cuts, which have now been fully or partially restored. Yet some have failed to pass on the restoration to staff, despite being relatively well funded.


Meanwhile, pay restoration for HSE and hospital workers – and the wider public service – is well underway under the Public Service Stability Agreement and its predecessor, the Lansdowne Road deal.


Fórsa head of division Éamonn Donnelly said public authorities – including the HSE, the public expenditure department, and the health department – should act to ensure that funding for pay is passed on to staff. But he said the agencies themselves also have to behave responsibly.


“Section 39 staff are totally dedicated to providing services to the most vulnerable people in our communities. They experienced a huge hit during the crisis, often beyond that meted out to mainstream public servants. Now they deserve the same pay restoration as their colleagues in other settings."


“Nobody wants to contemplate industrial action in these agencies, but Fórsa won’t stand by and see these dedicated workers left behind,” he said.


The union has been running its ‘caring at what cost’ campaign for pay restoration in the sector since 2016.



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