Social care workers across Galway have voted for industrial action that will start next Tuesday over failed promises to pay back money owed to them to the tune of 7.5 million euro.
400 care workers in Galway and Roscommon have voted for industrial action over pay that is owed to them over a period of 10 years, the same pay that has been given to agencies in Dublin but not to them. The 400 workers work for the Brothers of Charity Services and Ability West, working with people with intellectual disabilities and with challenging behaviours.
From next Tuesday 8 September, social care workers and leaders will commence their action in the form of a work to rule, which includes non co-operation with additional duties, non co-operation with service user appointments outside of the normal working week and strictly working to their job description.
The dispute arises over pay for “Twilight hours” which is time and a quarter for hours worked from 6pm to midnight. For a decade, workers in Galway have not been getting this pay. A series of meetings have taken place and the HSE have accepted that the workers have a legal entitlement to the money. But Impact claims the executive have reneged on their liability to pay the historic arrears and only agreed to pay the entitlement from last January. At another meeting, it was agreed that three years back pay would be paid but that deal was taken off the table at the last minute.
Rob Partridge, who is working with the Brothers of Charity in Ballybane since 2008, works with people who have challenging behaviour and learning difficulties. He said, “This is not something any of us want to do. When you are fighting for so long to get what you are entitled to and what you deserve and we are not being listened to. It’s the last resort. I’m not happy about it but there is nothing else we can do.”
He had this to say to health department officials, “Come and work with me for a day, come and see what I do. Come and see how I feel when I leave my unit after work. The majority of people making these decisions are looking down and not understanding what we go through on a day to day basis.”
Maura O’Callaghan works in Ability West with people who have severe to profound learning difficulties. She said, “I am feeling disheartened and just frustrated with the whole situation. This is 10 years pay that we haven’t been paid. All different grades within the sector have been getting their full pay. All social care workers and care assistants haven’t. It is discrimination against one sector. This sector is the most vulnerable part. It’s hands-on work. It’s personal care. There are a lot of unsocial hours when most people are at home with their families. This is our money, our salary, our pay, what we are legally entitled to. But we are hopeful we will get an agreement.”
Sarah Kinneen works with Brothers of Charity. “We have no choice really, nothing seems to be working. We were living on a promise that we were told we were going to get eventually but it hasn’t come.”
Impact’s Padraig Mulligan outlined that in 2004 arrangements were changed so social care workers would be working around the clock. “It was agreed that time and a quarter would be given and everyone got it around the country. For some reason no one paid this group of workers this pay.”
Mr Mulligan came in to take on the issue in 2013 and brought it to the Labour Relations Commission. “At end of 2014 we got them to pay it going forward from January 2015 onwards. These people are owed 10 years back money. We went to the LRC to try to do a deal. We were told they would pay one year, we conceded to five years. In the end three years was agreed on at the LRC. It was being brought to the members for a ballot but before that could happen the Department of Health pulled the deal.”
They call the campaign ‘Invisible No More’. Mr Mulligan added, “The behaviour of the Department of Health is atrocious. These are people that never go on strike but because they are decent and dedicated, they are being penalised. This is the last thing they want to do but their backs are to the wall and they are not walking away from it now.”
From this Tuesday, workers will no longer do clerical duties, and come in on their own time to bring service users to appointments. “They will mind all service users but in the short term if things aren’t solved, we will bring in rolling stoppages of two hours.”
“We’ve partnered with City Hall, and An Garda Síochána are also on board for the event, while support from local businesses have been phenomenal including; EZ Living Furniture, who has sponsored the big screens to show the games,” said the GCBA.
The screens supplied by EZ Living Furniture will be three metre high wide LED screens located on the bottom of Eyre Square, on the Hotel Meyrick end.
Galway Minors face Tipperary in the Minor Final at 1.15pm while the feature event sees Galway face old rivals Kilkenny at 3.30pm. Further details of the screening will be announced in the coming days.
“With tickets so scarce and a huge desire by people to go the match, we thought it would be great to create a real buzz in the city by having a screening,” said íine Feeney, Chairperson of the Galway City Business Association.
Ahead of Sunday’s games, Galway is already basking in its county colours as the city and county has turned maroon and white in advance of the finals “” see further coverage of the #turngalwaymaroon campaign on page 16.