Community & voluntary sector redundancies a daily reality – IMPACT

Wednesday 8th May 2013

Widespread compulsory redundancies, pay freezes, pay cuts and reduced working time have become a daily feature for staff working in the community and voluntary sector, an IMPACT conference has heard.

IMPACT official Ashley Connolly said that IMPACT’s involvement in the sector increasingly involves dealing with employers who are imposing compulsory redundancies. In many instances, despite the redundancies, more cost reduction measures often follow for remaining staff.

IMPACT’s Health and Welfare division is holding its biennial conference at the Heritage Hotel in Portlaoise until Friday. The union represents almost 3,000 staff in the community and voluntary sector.

Ms Connolly said “The majority of staff in the sector have had a pay freeze since 2008. Most have taken a pay cut, while some have even had multiple pay cuts on top of a reduced working week. In some cases, this is also taking place in the wake of redundancies in the same workplace.”

Ms Connolly said that staff working in organisations that are funded by state bodies, such as the HSE, do not have the job protections of the Croke Park agreement. She added that in many cases, staff are taking on the cost-saving burden in order to protect services and prevent closures.

Financial planning

The Boards and Voluntary Agencies branch of IMPACT represents about 1,100 staff in the community and voluntary sector. A branch motion, calling on Government departments to advise organisations about their annual funding in advance, was passed unanimously by conference delegates this evening (Wednesday).

The motion called upon departments who provide funding to community and voluntary organisations, including those providing care to older people, to ensure that their funding is ring-fenced and that organisations are informed in advance what their funding will be, so that they can organise programmes each year with more confidence.

Ms Connolly explained that, at present, organisations won’t be informed about their 2014 funding until March 2014. “This is too late to plan effectively, and creates additional problems when actual funding is lower than projected funding. Within organisations, this creates the need for further cost reduction negotiations after the current year’s cost saving measures have already been agreed. It puts staff in a very difficult and unfair position of having to choose to absorb more cuts rather than reduce services.

“It also means organisations cannot plan adequately, while they are already dealing with substantial increased demand for services. For example, Focus Ireland confirmed this week that the demand for homeless services has gone up by 7% in the last year,” she said.

Ms Connolly said that statutory bodies need to provide the funding information to organisations in advance if they are to have any chance of planning for future demands.