Social care workers in strike threat over €7.8m owed by HSE
Social care workers who care for people with serious disabilities are considering an all-out strike over an outstanding bill of €7.8m owed by the HSE in unpaid wages.
The 400 Brothers of Charity and Ability West staff, who are based in Galway and Roscommon have been involved in protracted talks with the HSE through the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
The workers claim they are owed backdated 'twilight' payments going back a decade to 2004, amounting to €7.8m.
Yet despite workers accepting two recommendations from the LRC, including one which would cut the back pay to just three years, a commitment to pay the monies has still not been provided.
The latest recommendation accepted by staff last month would have seen workers' backpay reduced from 10 years to three, with the new amount paid out in two tranches.
Despite this Padraig Mulligan, assistant general secretary of the Impact union, said he received confirmation this week that the HSE now wanted to bring the matter to the Department of Health.
He said workers had now been left with no option but industrial action.
"Everyone accepts that the money is owed but we have still made no headway. We've acted in good faith at all times and accepted the LRC undertaking but the HSE has failed to follow through at any stage." he said.
Mr Mulligan said staff were "seething with anger" that the latest recommendation was not being implemented.
"There is no way out of industrial action now. We'll be meeting staff to discuss what this will entail. People are so angry with how they have been treated, the workers have done everything they can to avoid taking this action but it seems the only thing the HSE understands is industrial action," he said.
Mr Mulligan said he believed the workers could opt for full strike action.
"That is on the cards because of the sense of anger out there. This is not going to be minor, we are looking at effective, serious industrial action," he added.
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.
Impact and Siptu took a case to the Labour Court in 2010 which ruled the monies must be paid.
The issue has now come before the LRC on a number of occasions. Earlier this year the HSE agreed that it would provide the additional wages going forward, but claimed it did not have the funds to cover the outstanding wages owed to the Galway and Roscommon staff since 2004.
A spokesperson for the HSE said it had agreed to pay the money from January 2015 but said there was "no agreement" in relation to arrears. It could make no further comment as the matter was before the LRC.