HSE owes social care staff €7.8m in unpaid wages for over 10 years
Social care workers will ballot for industrial action over an outstanding bill of €7.8m owed by the HSE in unpaid wages.
The 400 social care workers based in Galway and Roscommon have been owed the money going back over a decade.
While the HSE has acknowledged that the wages are owed, it has claimed it does not have the funds to cover the back pay. However, similar pay owed to staff in the east of the country has been paid.
Workers affected by the issue met in Galway and Roscommon recently where they voted to ballot for industrial action on the matter. They have now set up a group to fight for the funds, titled Invisible No More.
The issue affects social care workers who worked with Ability West and The Brothers of Charity.
The issue relates to Twilight Premium Time payments, which was introduced by the HSE in 2004 and allowed time and one sixth extra payments for working between 6pm and midnight. This later changed to between 8pm and midnight.
However, the additional pay was not implemented. The outstanding bill for the 400 workers is about €7.8m.
Impact and Siptu took a case to the Labour Court in 2010 which ruled the monies must be paid.
"The HSE has now paid the majority of workers around the country but workers in the West have been ignored," said Padraig Mulligan, Assistant General Secretary of Impact.
Earlier this month, the HSE agreed that it would provide the additional wages going forward, however, it claimed it did not have the funds to cover the outstanding wages owed to the Galway and Roscommon staff since 2004.
However, it recently reimbursed social care workers in three Dublin organisations, Home Again Traveller, Families Care and Cottage Home for Little Children.
"What really made people irate is that just days before telling us they didn't have the funds to pay the wages owed, it was providing money for organisations in Dublin to do just that," added Mr Mulligan.
He said the workers had now had enough and would take action if the issue was not rectified.
"This is a group of dedicated workers who have put the needs of their service users, people with intellectual disabilities, first. They have being going quietly about their business throughout all of this and they are being ignored but they can't sit back any longer," he added.
A spokesperson for the HSE said it has agreed to pay unsocial hours to designated staff commencing from the start of this year.
However, she said no agreement has been made in relation to arrears. She said the matter was currently before the Labour Relations Commission and it could not comment further whilst the process was underway.