SIPTU members in two HSE-funded "Section 39" health and social care agencies in Cork and Kerry will hold one day strikes next month in a dispute over pay restoration, with the union describing the stoppages as the "first round" in a nationwide campaign if the row is not resolved. 

Staff belonging to SIPTU in Co-Action in Cork will strike on 15 December, while members in South Doc based in Cork and Kerry will hold their stoppage three days later on Friday 18 December.

The dispute centres on the failure of the Health Service Executive to restore pay cuts imposed during the financial crisis. 

Section 39 employees work for agencies funded by the State delivering health and social care supports to often vulnerable clients - 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 that the dispute will escalate. 

"The initial stoppages will be followed by more in Dublin-based Section 39 organisations, including Depaul and Walkinstown Greenhills Resource Centre, in January," he said. 

SIPTU Organiser Theresa Butler said there would also be protests in line with public health restrictions outside the offices in Cork of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which oversees public service pay, has previously referred queries on this matter to the Department of Health.

When the issue arose some weeks ago, 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 was 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. 

The Department of Health said that a process to address these issues had commenced last year, and 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.