Workers from the community and care sector pictured at the SIPTU official picket at John Moore Road, Castlebar. Section 39 healthcare workers from Galway, Mayo and Donegal are taking part in strike action as part of their fight for equal pay. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

Care workers on Mayo picket line issue urgent plea to local TDs

"We cannot continue to be failed and forgotten by government"

Workers employed by the community and care sector in Mayo, Galway and Donegal are holding a SIPTU official picket outside the headquarters of the Western Care Association today at John Moore Road in Castlebar as part of their fight for equal pay.

Siobhan Barrett, a union representative with the Western Care Association, has submitted a letter to Mayo's three government party TDs - Minister Dara Calleary, Deputy Alan Dillon and Deputy Michael Ring - to explain their grievances.

In her letter asking the representatives to intervene in their pay dispute, she outlined: "If this dispute continues I fear that service users who are your constituents, all over the county, in Ballina, Castebar, Westport and Belmullet, will soon be left without adequate supports.

"This cannot be allowed to happen as it not only affects the service user but also affects extended families as well.

"I therefore ask that you to back us by making your voice heard in the Dáil supporting calls of Section 39 healthcare workers for pay parity with our colleagues in the HSE and for the immediate payment of monies owed to us for our service during the Covid pandemic.

Section 39 workers on the picket line in Castlebar. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

"Moreover, I ask that you intervene in this dispute by calling on the Minister for Health, in a government you support, to resolve this pay claim so as to avoid the negative impact on our service users.

"It is beyond time now for the minister to engage with Section 39 workers like us, to ensure that this situation is resolved.

"We need a pay rise. We carry out the most vital work for people in our community.

"Failure to provide us with the pay rise that we need due to the cost of living crisis will have a detrimental impact on the service users who rely on us, because very soon, many of us will not be able to afford to go to work.

"It is easily forgotten that we were the workers who were on the frontline during the pandemic, providing home supports and keeping disability services operational, all over Mayo when they were needed most.

"We isolated from family to protect ourselves and service users. We donned PPE and worked in congregated settings. We drove to work on empty roads, during Covid, when others sheltered. We cannot continue to be forgotten about by the State.

Claire Murphy, SIPTU shop steward, with workers from the community and care sector at the SIPTU official picket in Castlebar. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

"Yet, we took pay cuts through the Crash (2008-2014) alongside similar reductions in the public service. We were treated as one.

"However, now in changed times, our HSE colleagues have seen pay increases, but we are now told we must be treated differently. We have been denied any such pay awards. This is, again, grossly unfair.

"It is a serious dereliction of duty for the government that you are part of, to continue to ignore our calls.

"It is not unreasonable to ask for pay increases in line with inflation and, to be frank, it is grossly unfair that we haven't been paid our pandemic bonus, over a year late now in payment.

"Like every other worker, we now have our families to feed. We have our children to care for and our homes to heat.

"We now ask you to intervene in the Dáil and to make every effort to bring pressure to bear on the minister to resolve our pay claim, to restore monies owed to us and to engage in our calls for pay parity with our HSE colleagues.

"We cannot continue to be failed and forgotten by government."

Mayo County Councillor Brendan Mulroy, a care worker on the SIPTU picket line outside the HQ of the Western Care Association in Castlebar, being supported by two of his elected colleagues, Councillor Michael Kilcoyne and Councillor Blackie Gavin.

Healthcare workers have also gathered in Ballina in their battle for pay parity with employees of other healthcare sectors.

They have received no pay increase since 2008 despite providing and contributing hugely to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our communities.

They were joined on the picket line by local Councillor Mark Duffy who pledged his support to their workers in their demands which he described as very fair and reasonable.

Independent Councillor Mark Duffy addressing Section 39 care workers on the picket line in Ballina.