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Strike action looms as workers seek ‘proper pay’

Wednesday, 17th May, 2017 1:01am

Workers providing homeless services in Galway, who are being paid less than half the legal minimum wage for overnight working, say they are “seriously considering” carrying out strike action.

Staff working at the Galway Simon Community are currently working night duty for just €4.50 per hour.

Last month IMPACT members in the sector unanimously backed the union’s campaign of action, up to and including industrial action, however at the time assistant general secretary Padraig Mulligan said going on strike would be a “last resort”.

This week Mr Mulligan stated, “Regretfully we’re down to the last resort.

“We’re seriously considering escalating our industrial action. We may have to issue strike notice and begin a series of strikes.”

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 of €9.25 for this duty.

According to Mr Mulligan, 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.

An urgent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Conciliation Conference was scheduled for last month however, according to Mr Mulligan while Galway Simon and IMPACT turned up for the discussions, the HSE failed to show.

The HSE failed to respond to a response for comment at the time of going to print yesterday.

They previously said the staff “are not HSE employees, so it is a matter between them and their employer in the first instance”.

“We acknowledge that we provide Section 39 Grants to named Agency [Galway Simon] for the provision of services under Section 39 of the Health Act (2004). However, remuneration and employees terms and conditions of employment are not part of the HSE’s Service Arrangement with them.”

Correspondence seen by Mr Mulligan and this newspaper from a senior executive of the HSE to union officials states that the HSE intend to pay all arrears in relation to sleepovers. However those who work in the homeless sector are not mentioned.

“So basically what they’re saying is that they’re paying everybody but the one place that’s not mentioned is homelessness. So we have followed up in relation to that, as has Simon looking for clarification, and to date we have received nothing from the HSE. Absolutely nothing. They’re just not responding,” Mr Mulligan stated.

“This is outrageous when one looks at the fact that the Labour Court has said that our members are entitled to it,” he added.

Mr Mulligan said they have been “going around in circles”.

The case has since been referred to the Labour Court where a date to resolve the matter is yet to be decided.

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