I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
— there are many Section 39 organisations that receive funding from the Health Service Executive (HSE), though the true figure is unknown even by the HSE;
— these include hospices, disability organisations and other agencies that play a vital role in providing key services for communities across the country;
— Section 39 agencies had pay linkages, for many years, with the public service apart from pensions and received correspondence from the HSE directing them to apply the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) cuts;
— the Labour Court has made recommendations on this long-standing and accepted linkage and employers in the sector have conceded on the arguments from the union side on restoration but cite the absence of funding from the Government to meet their obligations;
— hospices receive up to 70 per cent of their funding from the State and are now facing service cuts;
— Section 39 employees work as hard and as diligently as those working in the public service and face the same recruitment challenges;
— current pay reductions will have a negative impact on the ability to recruit;
— there was an expectation that pay cuts in Section 39 organisations would replicate the FEMPI cuts made in the public service and, therefore, an expectation that FEMPI pay corrections would also apply;
— the HSE are saying they need extra funding to correct the anomalies;
— the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is expecting the funding to be found without acknowledging that this will have a significant impact on services;
— this current position is fundamentally unfair to Section 39 employers and staff; and
— the Government’s response to the valid concerns raised by Section 39 organisations has been dismissive and has added to the feeling of frustration and anxiety felt by the employees of Section 39 organisations;
welcomes and supports the action of workers affected due to take place on 14th February and urges all workers in Section 39 workplaces, and across the health service, to support this campaign for pay restoration;
further notes that workers will demonstrate outside the Department of Health on 14th February and urges public support for that demonstration in the absence of clear Government intervention and a commitment to adequately fund these organisations to provide for pay restoration for these workers; and
calls on the Government to:
— address the anomalies and reimburse the FEMPI cuts as was expected;
— recognise that both the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Health need to take responsibility for this issue, primarily in order to prevent services being cut as a result of their ongoing inertia;
— cease passing the buck between departments and prevent cuts being applied to services in order to allow staff to have their FEMPI cuts restored;
— undertake a detailed analysis and commit to a process to reimburse the Section 39 employees who have been paid public service rates and who had the FEMPI cuts applied to them;
— fully implement the Finance Reform programme in the HSE so that Section 39 and Section 38 organisations can be easily identified; and
— integrate all Section 39 workers fully into the public sector and bestow upon them the same rights and entitlements, including pension rights, as their public service comparators.”
Solidarity stands four square behind the thousands of section 39 workers who are fighting for pay justice and preparing, if necessary, for industrial action next month. The Government and the HSE must see sense before the deadline for the action. If they do not, the responsibility for any ensuing disruption and stress will be entirely on their shoulders, including those of the Minister.
We have submitted an amended version of the motion for a number of reasons. The employers in the section 39 sector have conceded the argument in the Labour Court that their employees should receive pay restoration in line with their public sector comparators but cited an ability to pay, passing the buck to the Government which funds the wages of their employees. The Government's responsibility is correctly the main focus of this debate. That said, we should keep some of the spotlight on the employers too. The State provides funds to more than 1,300 section 39, section 38 and private companies for salaries and public services delivered on behalf of the State. Many of these organisations have a salaried chief executive, and we all recall the scandal of chief executive pay at Rehab, and their own boards of management. This, ultimately, is no way to run public services, nor is it a way of ensuring people across the State receive the care they need at various stages of their life. Many of these organisations, with origins in the religious orders, have a record of hostility to or non-recognition of unions and have historically sought to take advantage of the commitment of their employees by regarding their jobs as vocations rather than careers which should be properly rewarded.
There is an element of piety in the Fianna Fáil motion which gives the incorrect impression that the interests of workers and employers in the sector are one and the same. They are not. Our amended version of the motion seeks to delete two clauses which call for the strike action to be deferred, as we do not agree with that. Beside the SIPTU membership in the sector, other unions, including Fórsa, Unite and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, organise in this sector and the action on 14 February would be much more effective if they were to join the action.
Our amended version of the motion also mentions that section 39 workers never enjoyed all the conditions of the public service in respect of pensions. I have no confidence at all that the 1,300 or more organisations are capable of administering a defined benefit pension fund for their employees. For this and other reasons, these workers should ultimately be fully integrated into the public service. Our support for the restoration of the link, in so far as there was a pay link between section 39 workers and their public service comparators, should not be interpreted as acceptance of the remaining legacy of attacks on public service pay and conditions. Two-tier pay and other cuts to allowances and premia need to be addressed, as do the issues of the pension levy and real pay rises, reflecting the cost of living increases coinciding with the last decade of pay stagnation.
The current set-up of section 39 organisations is a vestige of our past dependence on the church, church institutions and charities plugging a gap in health care, hospices and care of the disabled. In the 21st century, this method of public service delivery should be redundant. We need an Irish national health service which takes the majority of section 39 organisations into the public health system and allows for public service pay rates and pension rates for all their staff across the board.