Disabled people call on the Government for Rights not Fights!

October 12 2023, 10:00am

The Leaders Alliance 1

Stop Section 39 Strike, Restore Pay, Raise Respect

A group of Disabled People has come together to form The Leaders Alliance to call on the Government to stop the Section 39 workers indefinite strike action which is due to start from Tuesday 17 October. 

The newly formed Alliance say they are seriously concerned about the impact of strike action on People with Disabilities and fear that people will be left in their beds without access to food, water, or vital supports which they rely on to go about their daily lives. 

Many Disabled People will have no access to day services, respite services, residential services and independent living supports.

People will be prisoners in their own homes. 

Spokesperson for The Leaders Alliance, Leigh Gath said, “If this strike goes ahead, it will be sending a concrete message from the Irish government that it is acceptable to treat People with Disabilities as second-class citizens, yet again. We fought a similar battle in 2012 and it is so disheartening that we are in the same position again – nothing has changed. This strike is unnecessary. The Government can fix this, with rights, not fights!”

Section 39 agencies, who are funded under Section 39 of the Health Act, 2004, provide a range of residential and day services, personal assistance for Disabled People, mental health services, addiction services, domestic and sexual violence services, and other supports, under service level agreements with the HSE. Until 2008, workers in these agencies had the same pay and conditions as those who worked directly for the public sector. Since then, the government has allowed a significant gap to develop between those who are working directly for HSE-funded services like acute hospital facilities, and those who are grant-funded but still providing vital services in the not-for-profit sector on behalf of the HSE.

Leigh Gath continued, “People doing the same work are getting paid differently. So, we have come together as a group of People with Disabilities who truly understand what the strike will mean for us and our peers. We have no choice but to show people that this strike means people will be left to languish without vital supports. We don’t think people understand the impact it will have, and many Disabled People don’t have a voice to speak up, so those of us who can have no choice now but to speak out!

“We call on the Government to show disabled people that they care about us and our wellbeing by respecting the very workers who support us in living the independent lives that everyone else takes for granted.  All support workers, regardless of the organisation they work for, deserve to be treated equally, to have pay parity to be able to continue to support people with disabilities to live a life of their choosing.”  

Impacts of the indefinite strike action:

  • Disabled Peoples’ basic needs will be ignored by decision makers.
  • Employees of Section 39-funded organisations and their vital work will be disrespected.
  • Many Disabled People will be left in bed unable to have the personal assistance they need.
  • Many people with Intellectual Disabilities will not have access to day services or respite services; they will be prisoners in their own homes.
  • Ireland will be in serious violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) because people won’t be able to participate in life on an equal basis with others.
  • Employees who are dedicated to their vital frontline work will be forced not to turn up for work, letting those they support down. This will cause untold distress on all sides.

What the Leaders Alliance are calling for:

  • For the Government to uphold their obligations under the UN CRPD.
  • Disabled People to be shown basic respect as rights holders.
  • Due recognition of the importance of the threatened services.
  • Employees supporting People with Disabilities to be shown basic respect and given pay parity in line with others doing the same work.
  • The Government to intervene to stop the strike.
  • Meaningful pay talks to resume without delay.

About the Leaders Alliance

The Leaders Alliance is a national group of Disabled People who have come together for the specific purpose of helping people understand the critical nature of disability rights and services and putting a stop to unnecessary strikes or service stoppages.

The Leaders Alliance is independent and is not affiliated or connected to any one disability sector organisation or Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO).

The group spans the twenty-six counties of Ireland, with many members of the group campaigning for 20 to 30 years in different spheres to progress the rights of Disabled People in Ireland.

Independent living supports includes personal assistance and a range of other services which enable People with Disabilities to have choice and control over their lives in their community.

Email: leadersalliance2023@gmail.com