Friday, 13th is indeed scary for some but none more so than the members and employees of Irish Wheelchair Association and another 17 Section 39 organisations as they edge closer to indefinite industrial action across their key services next week.

What’s even more scary to hear is comments from Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, implying in his Dail debate last night that “meaningful engagement has or will take place” and that “The government is working on contingency plans.”

He did, however, admit that Section 39 organisations, of whom IWA is one, are “Highly dependent on state funding” and he stated that “We (the government) are the funders and therefore part of the solution responsibility lies with us in Government.”

The truth is that employers, like IWA, have been locked out of the WRC talks and that come next week many people with disabilities will left with nowhere to turn except our already overloaded public health system.

Chris Hoey, IWA’s Acting Chief Executive Officer commented “Last night, the Oireachtas debate on Section 39 pending industrial action resulted in Minister O’Gorman commenting on additional funding provided for Disability and “Private Organisations” To be clear any additional funding provided in the past has been for much needed new services not pay! Pay rates at 2008 levels and, for IWA’s frontline Personal and Programme Assistant, there is a €4.20 p.h. pay differences with HSE peers. The private organisation comment is either disingenuous or dangerously misleading. Irish Wheelchair Association is a charity and a direct service provider for HSE. No profits, no shareholders. The 5% offer is less than one year of inflation. This rhetorical merry go round has to stop, people will suffer. A measure of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable, how people with disabilities are being treated is shameful.”

This campaign is not just about pay, it’s about long-term security for people with disabilities who rely on a Personal Assistant to live their lives with some degree of independence.

It’s about the employee who is already living on a low salary trying to survive the daily inflation rates, to support themselves and their families. Many have left IWA to work with the HSE due to the higher pay rates available, and they cannot be blamed for this. However, this results in vacancies across IWA services which cannot be replaced due to an absence of applicants for a lower paid job. Essentially, no staff will result in no services, with the person with a disability ultimately suffering and losing their service.

The current pay parity gap is unfair and unjust. We need action and accountability today.

Commenting on Galway FM this morning, Abbey Smith, who receives a service from IWA said, “The Government are saying “Let them strike” but they don’t understand the impact it will have on me”.

This strike will have a devastating and catastrophic impact on every person with a disability and their families. IWA asks the Government to see common sense, step in and stop this ridiculous strike.