Statement from Irish Wheelchair Association on SIPTU Members' Industrial Action, Tues 5th July 2022

Updated 5th July 2022

Irish Wheelchair Association received official confirmation from SIPTU that their members voted in favour of industrial action to take place on July 5th, 2022. We fully understand and accept the frustration of our staff which has led to this industrial action.

Irish Wheelchair Association is a Section 39 organisation, contracted by the HSE to provide healthcare assistant services through a funding grant in accordance with Section 39 of the Health Act 2004. The services provided by IWA on behalf of the HSE include one-to-one healthcare assistant supports, day services and holiday/ respite services. Irish Wheelchair Association is the biggest provider of HSE-funded assisted living services for people with disabilities in Ireland.

The association has an ongoing annual ‘service arrangement’ contract with the HSE detailing service quantities and the level of Grant funding. Irish Wheelchair Association has not been in a position to fund pay increases as the HSE has not increased the levels of funding for public pay agreements.

Our staff have had no pay increase in nearly 14 years. Pay restoration, to 2008 levels, was only agreed and funded by HSE after a long battle by Irish Wheelchair Association staff in 2018.

Prior to 2008, the pay rates for IWA staff were aligned to HSE and Public Sector staff whereby when public sector pay agreements were reached, the grants to Section 39 organisations were automatically increased by the HSE to cover the additional cost of providing services on behalf of the HSE.

The HSE and Dept. of Health have indicated that as Irish Wheelchair Association is an independent company, pay is nothing to do with them. However, in 2010, and 2013 HSE insisted that all Section 39 organisations including Irish Wheelchair Association take pay cuts. IWA complied with this directive in good faith. There is now a need for the HSE to show good faith in return and increase pay for Irish Wheelchair Association employees in line with their own HSE employees pay increases.

Irish Wheelchair Association staff feel very frustrated, as those directly employed by HSE are now earning more than €3 per hour more for doing the same job. Irish Wheelchair Association cannot provide a pay increase without the HSE Section 39 grants increasing.

It is unfortunate that the wellbeing of the people who use our services is being put at risk. We will work with SIPTU to minimise this impact. However, Irish Wheelchair Association calls on the HSE to urgently agree to fund an increase in the pay of IWA staff in line with HSE staff, which they had always done until 2008.