Nine health and social care agencies around the country were hit by strike action today in a dispute over pay.
Unions warned that further industrial action will follow if workers do not receive pay restoration in line with public servants.
The dispute involves so-called Section 39 bodies - funded by the Health Service Executive to deliver health and social care services.
Their employees are not classed as public servants, but suffered the same pay cuts during the recession.
Unlike public servants though, their pay has not been restored since.
While 50 agencies have agreed a road map for restoration, workers in 250 similar bodies are still waiting.
General Secretary of the Fórsa trade union Kevin Callinan warned that if unions did not secure an agreement to restore the pay of these workers at the same pace as the rest of the public service, further industrial action would be inevitable.
Unusually, in Dublin , Chief Executive of the National Council for the Blind in Ireland Chris White joined his staff on the picket line.
He said the NCBI could not restore the pay because the organisation had been given inadequate funding by the HSE.
He said the HSE had made promises in 2010 that when the NCBI and its staff took cuts they would be restored as soon as possible.
He noted that the cuts had been restored for HSE staff and for those in so-called Section 38 bodies - but that Section 39s and the NCBI had been ignored.
The Department of Health noted pay restoration was already under way in over 40 organisations, with 12,000 people receiving a total of €7 million and that a process for phase two has commenced.
However, in a statement it stressed: "It is clear that any discussion on funding for this next phase cannot take place until the full costs are known."
Union picket line solid in Co-Action Skibbereen, West Cork. 💪#OurSIPTU members are determined to see this dispute through and win the pay justice they deserve. ✊#Section39 #UnfinishedBusiness pic.twitter.com/t5r3d8VLv1— SIPTU (@SIPTU) February 21, 2020
SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell laid the blame on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, accusing it of blocking the HSE from issuing the required funding so that pay restoration could be implemented.
The department declined to comment other than to reiterate that the Section 39 staff are not public servants.
The HSE said that it regretted the industrial action taking place as it would affect patient and client services.
It said each community healthcare organisation, in which the agency sits, is engaging directly to establish any effect on the service they deliver on behalf of the HSE so that any "appropriate mitigation" can be identified.
We wish our #Communitysector colleagues well in their strike today. Their wages were cut like public servants during recession but unlike the public servants theirs was not restored.Last week they marching solidarity with us#UnfinishedBusiness #section39 @siptu @forsa_union_ie pic.twitter.com/G4x2HlyjUi— Galway CE Supervisor Network (@CeGalway) February 21, 2020
The organisations affected by today's strike were Valentia Hospital, Kerry; St Joseph's Care Home, Kilorglin, Kerry; Delta Care in Carlow, the National Council for the Blind in Ireland; Western Alzheimers; Co-Action Bantry; South West Doctors,and the Galway Rape Crisis Centre.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, driver and administrator with SouthDoc John Leisk said over 150 patients are affected by the action at his company.
SouthDoc is an out-of-hours service providing families' access to a doctor for urgent medical needs in Kerry and Cork. The company offers two services - a treatment centre, as well as driving people to doctors' homes.
He said SouthDoc offers no pension to its employees, and that workers there are 8-10% out of pocket as a result of cuts yet to be restored since the recession.
Mr Leisk said they have an incremental pay system in the company, in which younger workers are falling behind their older counterparts due to the lack of pay restoration.
Audrey Tormey, a trainer with the NCBI, said there are a lot of people on the picket line where it is based who do not want to be there.
She said she and her colleagues provide services around mobility and independence to the blind.
She said hopefully the HSE will engage with agencies like the NCBI and establish a dialogue with an aim to restore pay, which has been an issue for over ten years.