SIPTU has deferred next Tuesday's threatened strike by workers in so-called Section 39 health and social care bodies to allow for talks at the Workplace Relations Commission. 

The union said that the decision was made following an intervention by the Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Around 5,000 workers in HSE-funded health and social care bodies are in dispute over the failure to restore austerity pay cuts in line with public servants.

The staff in the so-called Section 39 bodies who belong to SIPTU do work similar to that of public servants.

However, while Government employees are experiencing pay restoration under the recent Public Service Stability Agreement, most of the Section 39 bodies have argued that they cannot afford to do so for their employees, because they have not been given an increased funding allocation to accommodate higher wages.

In a statement, SIPTU said the move was in response to an understanding that the Department of Health and the HSE had a "position to communicate" which may resolve what they called the pay justice claim of Section 39 workers.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said the decision to defer strike action was not taken lightly - and was down to the efforts of the WRC, ICTU and the members' determination to win pay justice without impacting on the clients they care for in health and social care settings.

However, he stressed that the action has only been temporarily deferred rather than cancelled - and that the strike notice will be reactivated with immediate effect if the engagement at the WRC proves unsuccessful.

Last February, SIPTU deferred a previous threatened strike to allow for a Workplace Relations Commission process including a review of pay in fifty nominated organisations.

The review found that the average pay cut for Section 39 workers was 4.66% - but that the organisations had the necessary financial resources to commence pay restoration.

The union Fórsa has also accepted the invitation to talks at the Workplace Relations Commission next week.

However, the union said it would continue to ballot members in five Section 39 employments following the collapse of talks on pay restoration in August.

The union's Health Executive last week approved a ballot for industrial action to take place at five employers.

They are Enable Ireland, Child Vision, Moorehaven Centre, Delta Services and Ability West.

Fórsa official Ian McDonnell said: "We will enter the WRC talks with an open mind and a resolve to bring the issue of pay restoration for our members to a successful conclusion.

"Nevertheless, we will continue with the ballot as our members should have the option to stand ready for industrial action if this process fails," he said.

Health Minister Simon Harris welcomed the reconvening by the Workplace Relations Commission of talks on the issues in the dispute.

He urged all sides to continue to engage with the process with a view to reaching a satisfactory resolution.