A Letterkenny Community Employment Scheme supervisor says she will be participating in today’s strike action because she has not had a pay rise since 2008.
Kate Campbell will be among around 40 Community Employment (CE) supervisors in the county on the march this afternoon as part of the ‘Valuing Care, Valuing Community’ campaign.
It highlights the demand for a first pay increase in 14 years for workers in the sector.
Ms Campbell and a second supervisor, Margaret Carlin, administer the Donegal Local Development Company’s CE childcare scheme. It covers an area from Bundoran to Gaoth Dobhair and has 52 participants. A third supervisor, Pauline Coyle, supervises the same scheme in the Inishowen area.
Kate Campbell said one of the goals of today’s industrial action was to secure wage terms in line with those being granted to the public sector.
Last month public sector workers were offered a 6.5 per-cent pay rise over the next two years under a deal agreed by government and trade unions.
But due to the mechanisms under which Community Employment schemes are operated, CE supervisors are not entitled to the same increase.
“I am 22 years with DLDC and we have been on the same wage since 2008,” Ms Campbell said.
“We can’t increase our wages because we are given a wages sheet every month with the figure on it. There are four tiers and once you reach that top tier, that it is it.”
Social welfare payments
Community Employment Scheme participants qualify because they are on social welfare payments. They are entitled to the minimum weekly rate of €230.50, an amount that has risen incrementally over the years.
But while the wages of workers have gone up, their supervisors’ pay has remained static.
Kate Campbell added, “We are hoping that we at least get matched with the civil service and the six and a half per-cent they agreed recently.
That would be ideal but hoping and getting are two different things.”
The DLDC childcare supervisor added that there were other outstanding issues such as sick pay and maternity pay. But workers are starting with pay because it is the “biggest problem for everyone”.
In Donegal 13 groups will strike today – 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 Grianán 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 will leave from outside the SIPTU office on Port Road at noon and finish with a rally outside the Intreo Centre on High Road.
Local SIPTU organiser Kevin McKinney said CE workers were struggling to make ends meet while also seeking to maintain services for local communities and some of the most vulnerable citizens.
In the face of rising costs and government inaction, they had been left with no alternative but to strike.
“In July strike action was taken in selected care and community organisations in counties Donegal, Waterford, Galway and Meath,” he said.
“Unfortunately the government, which controls the funding of these organisations and so has ultimate control over whether the wages of workers can be increased, has failed to positively respond to our demand for pay justice.
“Due to the government’s intransigence, workers in several more organisations in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Cork and Kerry have had to say enough is enough.”
SIPTU added that until the government starts taking heed, the Valuing Care, Valuing Community campaign will be forced to expand and escalate its actions.