Community and voluntary sector workers left behind on pay – IMPACT

Union says Government must meet its programme commitment to improve sector funding

IMPACT trade union, which represents approximately 5,000 workers in the community and voluntary sector, has said that workers in the sector are at risk of being left behind as pay restoration begins to take hold in other sectors of the economy.

The union hosted a pre-budget briefing this morning (Wednesday 21st September) at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, focusing on the community and voluntary sector, and presented the findings and recommendations contained in the union’s Caring- At What Cost? research document.

IMPACT national secretary Eamonn Donnelly warned that while household costs – including rent, motoring and insurance – continued to climb, community and voluntary sector workers were still coping with the effects of salaries that were severely reduced since 2008, and increasingly unable to meet mounting costs.

He added that the Programme for Government includes a commitment to improve funding in the sector, and that delivering on that commitment needed to get underway in next month’s budget.

Mr Donnelly said: “Short-time working, pay cuts and unpaid overtime are just some of the measures used to cut costs in the face of reduced funding for this vital sector. These are workers providing a wide range of services to older people, people with disabilities and people living with addiction. They are, by their very nature, people who go the extra mile to ensure the job is done, and we cannot allow them to be left behind on pay restoration as the economy continues to improve.”

Michelle Grehan, a worker from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, explained that continuing cuts meant that some of her colleagues were struggling to pay for healthcare “as mortgage repayments come first.”

Annemarie Shalloo, who works in homeless and domestic violence services in the western region, said: “We have faced pay cuts, increment freezes and huge demands working on the front line of homeless services. After six years without our situation improving, I don’t at all feel valued as a social care worker today.”

IMPACT organiser Joe O’Connor explained that these comments fairly reflected the challenges and frustration faced by workers throughout the sector: “A small number of employers in the community and voluntary sector have begun the process of restoring pay, but in order for pay restoration to become a reality in the sector, state funding needs to be restored.

“We know the services these workers provide are valued by the state, but the state has a responsibility to ensure these workers see that value reflected in real pay restoration. It’s absolutely essential that the sector is adequately funded in order to ensure workers in the sector are not unfairly left behind, and that process must get underway in next month’s budget,” he said.

IMPACT’s report, Caring – At What Cost?, makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Levels of funding for organisations currently funded under Section 39 should be gradually restored to ensure sustainable delivery of services and to retain staff. Organisations cannot to continue to ‘do more with less’ without this having a negative effect on service delivery;
  • The restoration of pay and conditions for staff in Section 39 organisations without additional productivity demands;
  • Staff in Section 39 funded organisations should progress onto scales comparable with their public service and Section 38 counterparts;
  • In some cases, in order to address evident disparities between organisations of comparable size and function, re-designation as Section 38 funded organisations may be relevant in the short term for organisations with service level agreements and annual funding of at least €250,000;
  • Ultimately, the Section 39 funding model should be replaced with specific funding mechanisms that make provision for multi annual funding, provision for funding for core operations as well as service delivery, and national level funding for national organisations to enable economies of scale and to eliminate unnecessary administration.

Sections 38 and 39 explained

Section 39

Section 39 refers to that part of the 2004 Health Act which provides funding for a service ‘similar or ancillary to a service’ that the HSE provides. In reality, it is more accurate to refer to these organisations as ‘Section 39 funded organisations’, as they rarely rely entirely on this one funding stream to carry out their activities. In 2014 almost 1,900 organisations were supported by Section 39 funding, though within this there were substantial differences in levels of funding, service provision and employment.

Examples: Ability West, Peter McVerry Trust, Enable Ireland

Section 38

Provision for the funding of non-statutory bodies is also made in Section 38 of the same 2004 Health Act. For clarity, Section 38 states that: ‘(1) The Executive may, subject to its available resources and any directions issued by the Minister under section 10, enter, on such terms and conditions as it considers appropriate, into an arrangement with a person for the provision of a health or personal social service by that person on behalf of the Executive”.

Examples: Brothers of Charity, St. John of Gods, St. Michael’s House

For example, in the Galway area, the Brothers of Charity (Section 38) and Ability West (Section 39) provide the same service.