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24 Sept 2022

'They can't take any more' - community workers vow to escalate industrial action

Staff representing 13 community and voluntary organisations from across Donegal are among those demanding a first pay rise since 2008

'They can't take any more' - community workers vow to escalate industrial action

Striking workers demonstrate at the Intreo offices in Letterkenny. Photo: Joe Boland (North West Newspix)

Supervisors across community organisation in Donegal say they could take their demands for a pay rise to a national level

Staff representing 13 different organisations staged a protest in Letterkenny on Thursday. The protest was a part of a three-day period of industrial action in the sector in the Valuing Care, Valuing Community campaign.

A small group of around 15 people, including Letterkenny-based Sinn Féin Councillor Gerry McMonagle marched from the SIPTU offices on Port Road to the Intreo base on High Road, where they held a demonstration.

Workers in the sector have not had a pay rise since 2008 and Kevin McKinney, an Industrial Organiser with SIPTU, says the feelings have reached a tipping point.

“The frustration being experienced by our members, they cannot take any more,” Mr McKinney told Donegal Live.

“I want this to escalate if they don’t engage. Eventually, if this doesn’t pay off, we will escalate this to a national strike of some sort. We will move in that direction.

“We will campaign in every single county in the country demanding that the government sit down. We will embarrass them and if we have to name and shame, we will.

“We have ensure that we get a satisfactory outcome for our members.It is important for us to show our commitment to this. We aren’ going to run away from this. If government want to continue to ignore us we will up the campaign across the country.”

A recent proposal by the Workplace Relations Commission following pay talks has seen a pay increase of 6.5 per cent for workers in the public sector. Members will now ballot on whether or not to accept the proposal.

“Why are staff working in the community sectors and voluntary sectors that we represent be treated any different?” Mr McKinney said.

“The cost of living crisis is the same for them and they are doing comparative work in most cases to, for example, the HSE. It is lubricious and unfair. It is nothing more than cheap labour.

“Our members are at the end of their tether and they cannot take any more. Our members have been diligent in their work and have made sure that they have provided for their communities. It is a vocation to them. This is taking advantage of them.”

Mr McKinney urged the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, to meet with trade union representatives.

Wages can only be increased by the Government agreeing to increasing funding to the various organisations in which the affected employees work.

“The realty is that government aren’t listening and don’t want to engage,” he said.

“The bottom line is the they are the funder. Their view is that they aren’t the employer, but they fund the employer and they dictate the funds and revenue and they dictate the salary that employers can give to members.

“In the absence of engagement, our members are suffering. The Public Sector Agreement is being balloted on and that would be an uplift for members in the public sector. The community sector should be aligned to the public sector. This is a nonsense and a disgrace.

“The Minister needs to get around the table with trade unions and stop hiding behind the nonsense that they aren’t the employer.”

The striking workers held a peaceful rally outside the Intreo offices, with those at the picket line bearing placards demanding recognition.

Striking staff in Donegal were said to represent the following organisations: Letterkenny Community Development Project, Ballybofey and Stranorlar Chamber of Commerce, RCEP Ramelton Community Employment Programme, Donegal Local Development Company CLG, Letterkenny Together CES CLG, St Johnston and Carrigans Family Resource Centre, An Grianan Theatre, Congress Resource Centre CLG, Donegal Youth Services LTD, Falcaragh Community Employment, Inishowen Development Partnership, Milford and Kerrykeel CE Scheme and Rathmullan Enterprise Group Ltd.

Workers in the Irish Wheelchair Association, St. Joseph’s Foundation and EmployAbility went on strike in Cork on Wednesday with Enable Ireland workers in Cork and Kerry doing similar on Friday.

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