Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Section 39 Organisations: Motion [Private Members]
Two weeks ago, we celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Today, as previously raised in a Fianna Fail Private Members' motion in 2018, we are again highlighting the massive discrepancies in pay for section 39 health organisation and not-for-profit sector workers, many of whom work directly with those with special needs and disabilities. This sector provides health and educational services across the country, including hospices, disability organisations and other advocacy groups. Every Deputy is acutely aware of the pay disparity, in particular between sections 38 and 39 workers. Every Deputy can also attest to the fact that both workers essentially provide the same level of service to their clients.
Why do we then persist in penalising section 39 workers in respect of their rights to pay restoration? We cannot continue to sit idly by while this pay inequality persists. This is about fairness. Why should two people who do exactly the same job, have the exact same responsibilities and perform the same tasks as one another be treated differently? The fact is that they should not.
Worse still than the lack of fairness in the sector in terms of pay inequality is the real challenge that the disparity poses for the voluntary sector in terms of sustainability.
If the State continues to oversee a pay structure that directly undermines the magnificent work of those in the voluntary sector, I fear for the future of that sector in terms of its ability to attract and retain workers who carry out some of the most important work for the most vulnerable in our society.
The independent review group, which was established to examine the role of organisations in this sector, concluded that disability services in particular are continually underfunded. Many of these voluntary bodies are now under significant threat. The fact that Mr. Seán Abbott, CEO of the Cope Foundation in Cork, has said that the challenges facing the sector are the worst he has seen in his 38 years speaks volumes for where we are at. Our health and education systems are reliant on organisations such as the Cope Foundation to provide early intervention supports, training supports for people who have left school, housing and alternative therapies for families, and to help people with special needs, including people on the autistic spectrum.
We need to appreciate and cherish our voluntary sector. That means treating those involved with fairness and with respect to ensure services are secure for the families and communities that use them.