SIPTU members in two HSE-funded "Section 39" health and social care agencies in Cork and Kerry face one day strikes next month in a dispute over pay restoration - though disruption may spread around the country if the row is not resolved. 

The union confirmed that members in Co-Action and South Doc based in Cork and Kerry have backed industrial action as part of a country-wide campaign for pay restoration - but warned that disruption could spread to other agencies, which provide health and social care to clients who are often vulnerable. 

Section 39 employees work for agencies funded by the state, but do not enjoy the status, terms and conditions of public servants. 

Following the 2008 financial crisis, Section 39 workers had their pay cut in tandem with reductions imposed on established government employees, but have not had their pay restored in line with their public service counterparts. 

In 2018, an agreement brokered at the Workplace Relations Commission provided a pathway to restoration, initially for 50 of the largest bodies.

However, unresolved issues remain in a further 250, generally smaller agencies.

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser Adrian Kane accused the HSE of breaching the 2018 deal, and warned of a campaign of rolling industrial action around the country if pay restoration is not delivered.  

He noted that SIPTU had suspended previously scheduled strike action in February, but that since then, there had been no substantive progress on restoring the pay cuts, some of which dated back to 2010. 

"Our members have not taken this decision to commence a campaign of industrial action lightly. However, their loyalty and hard work is being taken for granted. The Government is not listening to these workers and seems indifferent to their plight," said Mr Kane. 

He said the nationwide campaign of industrial action will commence next week in Cork and Kerry, with socially-distanced protests outside constituency offices of Cork and Kerry-based cabinet members including Taoiseach Michéal Martin, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, and Education Minister Norma Foley. 

A date for potential strike action has not yet been decided.

The dispute will escalate next month with further strike ballots in a number of Dublin-based services, including De Paul, the Walkinstown Greenhills Resource Centre as well as other employments. 

"This rolling industrial action will continue nationwide until this dispute is resolved," said Mr Kane.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which oversees public service pay, referred the query to the Department of Health. 

The Department of Health said it was "regrettable" that SIPTU had decided to launch a campaign of industrial action in certain Section 39 organisations, as the issue is still being progressed at the Workplace Relations Commission. 

It noted that the 2018 WRC agreement provided for pay restoration in relation to 50 pilot organisations in the first instance - but recognised that some of the remaining Section 39 bodies were also likely to have pay restoration issues.

It said that a process to address these had issues commenced last year, and that the HSE was currently costing this next phase of pay restoration. That exercise is due to be completed "in the coming weeks". 

It said engagement would take place with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform once the HSE had completed this work, adding that health sector management remained committed to the process.