SIPTU has called on Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to raise the issue of cutbacks in home help hours and pay at Cabinet.

Among measures to reduce the health budget deficit, many home helps have had their hours cut which has resulted in lower incomes.

Arriving at the Labour Relations Commission, SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said the 10,000 home helps had always been treated differently from other health workers.

He said they had no steady income and as part of the cutbacks some had simply been told not to come to work.

He described that situation as intolerable, particularly as core pay and jobs were supposed to be protected under the Croke Park Agreement.

Mr Bell accused Health Minister James Reilly of demonstrating a lack of interest in the matter and called on Mr Gilmore to directly intervene and ensure the issue was discussed at Cabinet.

The Health Service Executive’s Director of Human Resources Barry O'Brien said they had a longstanding agreement with SIPTU regarding the flexibility of the home help contract to ensure they could best match services needs and hours of employment.

He said HSE research for today's hearing indicated that there were more home helps working increased hours than home helps who had lost hours.

He acknowledged that there were variations in people's situations, but said they were satisfied that in many instances they were allocating more hours than were contracted for.

He also said they had an agreement to review the whole process in 2012 and they were back at the Labour Relations Commission to commence those discussions.

Asked whether staff without enough hours could be redeployed under the Croke Park Agreement, Mr O'Brien said they had to ensure they had the right skill-sets to re-deploy those people to areas where they actually had a service deficit.