Union agrees to defer strike by Section 39 health workers after WRC invitation

It follows an intervention by Health Minister Simon Harris in the pay dispute

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Updated 21:55

SIPTU members in 'Section 39' health and social care agencies have deferred strike action scheduled for next week after accepting an invitation to the Workplace Relations Commission.

The union says they've come to the decision following an intervention from the Health Minister Simon Harris.

Workers had been due to strike on Tuesday September 18th.

Section 39 employees in state-funded voluntary agencies are not technically considered public servants.

However, the workers are seeking full pay restoration after taking a cut along with public servants during the economic crisis.

SIPTU has warned that the strike by workers will go ahead if an agreement can't be reached.

The union's health division organiser, Paul Bell, explained: “The decision taken by our representatives to defer strike action was not taken lightly and is down to the efforts of the WRC, ICTU and our members’ determination to win pay justice without impacting on the clients they care for. 

"The strike action is temporarily deferred and not cancelled. Should the engagement at the WRC not be successful, we will reactivate the strike notice with immediate effect.”

Minister Harris said he welcomed SIPTU's decision, and was pleased that services will not be disrupted on Tuesday.

He said: "It is recognised that Section 39 agencies provide vital services to often the most vulnerable in our society.

"I would encourage all parties to continue to engage with the process being facilitated by the WRC with a view to reaching a satisfactory resolution."

Meanwhile, Fórsa has also accepted an invitation to the WRC for discussions on the Section 39 pay issue.

Officials said they'll enter the talks with an 'open mind' - although stressed that they'll continue balloting their members in five Section 39 organisations to prepare for the option of industrial action if talks fail.