Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Section 39 Organisations: Motion [Private Members]
I thank my colleague, Deputy Ó Caoláin, not just for tabling this Private Members' motion tonight and giving us the opportunity to discuss it, but also for the work he does day in, day out, hand in hand with these organisations. One can hear the passion in his voice for the organisations, not just for the people who deliver the services but for those who are recipients of the services. We all know the work that is done by these agencies. The HSE most definitely knows because it is so heavily reliant on them. In my constituency I am acutely aware of the work that is done by Prosper Fingal across north County Dublin. I acknowledge its CEO, Pat Reen, whom I know is watching proceedings this evening. It is true to say that like all of the other agencies, the very existence of Prosper Fingal is threatened. That makes it a very worrying time for service users, their families and the staff.
These organisations were established because there were no statutory services. Very often they came into being because communities themselves organised and put services in place when they were let down by the State. Funding cuts from the austerity years, which have never been restored, and inadequate budgets, have caused huge damage and have left service providers unable to meet service demands and that has put significant pressure on them because they want to be able to maintain a high level of service but they cannot do it in the face of continued cuts. The pay cuts to section 39 workers during the austerity years and the imposition of a recruitment moratorium have had a long lasting and devastating impact on these services. We know there is a recruitment and retention crisis right across the health service and it is being acutely felt in section 39 agencies because they are already in a position where they do not have comparable pension rates and now they do not have comparable pay rates to the rest of the public service. It is not fair to say to them that they are regarded as public servants for the purposes of cutting their wages and cutting their funding but they are not regarded as public servants for the purposes of pay restoration. I represented many workers at the time and I know the pay cuts were in or around 8%. The workers themselves feel that they have been left high and dry. They do not believe that the political will exists in order to be able to address the issue. What is happening is that section 39 organisations are losing staff to the private sector because it is chasing after the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, money the Government is so anxious to pump into the private sector and away from the public service, or they are losing staff to the public service. It is really not fair. All that happens every time there is funding uncertainty is there is a threat to cut services and that sends a shock wave through communities and service users. It is most unfair. These staff undertake exactly the same work as directly-employed HSE staff but they do not have comparable pensions. They have comparable qualifications but there is a significant difference in their pay packet. We seek to have this addressed as a matter of urgency out of recognition for the fact that these organisations are providing vital, front-line health services.