The threatened strike by health and social care workers, in so-called Section 39 bodies such as hospices and intellectual disability services, has been averted after agreement was reached on a pay restoration process for such staff.

Around 6,000 employees belonging to SIPTU had already voted overwhelmingly for a one-day strike on 14 February over the failure of their employers to restore their pay in line with restoration for public servants.

Under the agreement, the Health Service Executive will carry out an initial review of Section 39 bodies to establish which agencies actually have a pay link to the public service, with an interim report to be completed by the end of March.

In a statement, SIPTU said the agreed process would see pay restoration commence on a phased basis in 2018. 

However, the HSE stressed that there were conditions around the timing of the commencement of actual payments. 

It noted that the WRC document says that where Section 39 organisations are shown to have the financial capacity to make pay restoration themselves, without adversely impacting on service provision, "they should proceed to do so as soon as possible and where feasible in this financial year".

The process will be overseen by the WRC.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said the agreement delivers a viable process for a structured and transparent pay restoration mechanism.

He said that, in light of the substantial progress that had been made, SIPTU had agreed to defer the strike action for six weeks.

But he said the ball was now in the management court to play their part in bringing about pay restoration, particularly in bodies with outstanding Labour Court recommendations in favour of workers.

Mr Bell noted that another crucial development had been yesterday's Dáil concession, by Minister for Health Simon Harris, that the pay restoration process "will come with a bill that ultimately will need to be met".

The review will examine, initially on a self-assessment basis, whether and to what extent reductions in pay rates were applied during the economic crisis in each relevant organisation.

It will then examine whether and to what extent restoration of those pay reductions has happened.

Finally, it will "identify the financial implications for each organisation, taking account of all sources of funding associated with addressing the issues identified and propose an appropriate plan for phased resolution in each case".

Minister for Health Simon Harris welcomed the agreement, adding that it was important that they now have a process to address the issues.

He said he was very pleased that services would not now be disrupted, and thanked the unions for their engagement. 

The Section 39 employers acknowledge that, in many such bodies, pay was cut in line with public service austerity measures, even though Section 39 workers do not count as public servants.

The employers in question argue that their austerity block funding cuts from the Department of Health and the HSE have not been restored to permit pay restoration.

For their part, the Department of Health and the HSE say they have sought additional funding for the pay restoration, but the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has not given them increased funding to permit increases.

The Government contended that up to 2,224 agencies of varying sizes could be affected by any move to restore pay, at a significant cost to the exchequer, a figure disputed by SIPTU.