Galway staff currently working night duty for just €4.50 per hour
Workers providing homeless services in Galway have unanimously backed a campaign to secure the Labour Court’s recommended hourly rate for overnight working. A Labour Court ruling in 2014 recommended that time spent on overnight (sleepover) duty should be acknowledged as constituting working time, and that workers should be paid the national minimum hourly rate (€9.25) for this duty.
IMPACT assistant general secretary Padraig Mulligan explained that when the union sought the payment for staff working in the Galway Simon Community, the employer said it was unable to pay as the HSE had not provided the funding to do so. “The employer accepts that staff have a legal entitlement to the payment, but the HSE is withholding the funding.
“This is not an acceptable position. The HSE pays its own staff the proper rate, and provides money to do so in other funded agencies. It makes no sense to exclude the Galway staff at Simon, who are effectively providing services through the night for €4.50 per hour. That’s less than half of the national minimum wage,” he said.
IMPACT members in the sector have unanimously backed the union’s campaign of action, up to including industrial action.
The 50 staff at Galway Simon are housing support officers and housing support assistants. Mr Mulligan said the staff are highly experienced, and entered the workplace with recognised third level qualifications in social care. “The employer and the HSE accept they owe the money, but no one is prepared to release the funds.
“The HSE’s failure to provide funding, to pay the proper legal rate, is reserved for workers who they believe will never stand up for themselves. We call our campaign Invisible No More because these workers deserve to be recognised and to be treated fairly. That means paying them the proper rate, as recommended by the Labour Court and required by law.” he said.
Mr Mulligan said the union is currently campaigning to raise awareness of the underpayment of staff. “We’re talking to our TDs and to the wider community. Ultimately, we’re bringing this campaign to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, as he carries the responsibility to release the necessary funds.
“We have a strong mandate for industrial action if it comes to that. I hope it won’t. These workers provide a vital and valuable service to the city’s homeless population. But they must be treated fairly, and that is what we’re fighting for,” he said.