The last-minute decision to defer today’s talks between the government and unions to resolve extreme staff recruitment and retention pressures is gravely disappointing.
Read the RTÉ coverage: Charities ‘gravely disappointed’ over deferral of pay talks
The pay deficit of up to 15% for state-funded charity staff compared to their counterparts in state agencies like the HSE is now unsustainable.
Hundreds of voluntary bodies working in areas like disability, home care, addiction, homelessness, and the care of children and older people will simply be unable to maintain existing service levels due to a two-tier pay system, maintained by the state, that requires them to recruit and employ staff “on the cheap”.
We have been part of an ongoing campaign to introduce pay parity for all staff doing identical work, and are calling now for its immediate implementation. In addition, we need to establish a formal process to examine broader issues like moving to a multi-annual funding model for the sector and to address costs related to governance, regulation and pensions.
Last month a report commissioned by the Wheel, The Future of Public Service Delivery by the Community & Voluntary Sector, examined staffing, demand for services, and funding among hundreds of Section 39, 10, and 56 organisations. These charities receive state contracts to deliver essential public services.
It found that their staff must work for up to 15% less than public sector employees doing identical work. This is because stringent pay cuts imposed in the wake of the 2008 financial crash – long reversed for public sector employees – are still enforced on staff in charities through state funding models. Consequently, it referenced a 2023 Disability Federation of Ireland survey which found that 59% of their member organisations now fear for the sustainability of services, while the National Voluntary Drug and Alcohol Sector reported staff turnover of 34% during 2022 alone.
We have been working with the government to address this issue, particularly since the surge in inflation since 2022. By entering WRC talks earlier this year the government finally acknowledged the urgent need to address this crisis, restore pay parity, and ensure that charities can employ the necessary numbers of qualified staff to maintain public services to thousands of vulnerable people and families.
They deliver not just essential contracted services to the public but bring an added value to public service delivery due to their mission, commitment to specific needs and vulnerable groups in society, and in their capacity to innovate and adapt quickly to changing needs.
The latest delay by the government in bringing forward clear proposals is, therefore, gravely disappointing. The issue must be resolved urgently before the looming holiday season – to provide reassurance to the thousands of often highly vulnerable people and families reliant on these services and to provide a fair pay rate for staff delivering these services.
We will continue to engage closely with government and other stakeholders to secure an acceptable resolution to this situation and we will keep you informed on our collective progress.
Ivan Cooper, CEO of The Wheel
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