A 24-hour strike planned for Tuesday and expected to involve thousands of agency healthcare and social workers is hoped to be avoided in talks under way to find a last-minute solution.
Groups representing people who have disabilities have expressed concern around the withdrawal of services by agency workers in the disability and community sectors.
Tanaiste Micheal Martin said on Monday that there was a “significant degree of work under way” to resolve the dispute at the Workplace Relations Commission to try and avert the industrial action.
“This is an issue that’s been on the agenda for about 10 years, there has been a stop-start approach to try and deal with it, but we’re anxious to see can we get this resolved sustainably into the future,” he said on Monday.
Workers employed across more than a dozen community and voluntary sector agencies which are funded by the HSE and other state agencies are expected to take part in the strike.
The action is being taken over a pay gap between agency workers and HSE staff, which unions say is leading to retention issues.
John Dolan, chief executive of the Disability Federation of Ireland, said if the strike goes ahead “it will be disastrous at a number of levels, not least for disabled people and for their families”.
He said: “No-one wants this strike, least of all the disabled people, the workers and the disability organisations but, they have all watched what inadequate funding has done to their services and to the sector for the past number of years.
“Sadly, it had to come to this.”
He added: “All parties now need to work towards a fair and sustainable solution. Anything less than that will see us back to square one with serious consequences for disabled people and their families, and at a wider level.”
Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) said its employees are earning 4.20 euro less per hour than their HSE counterparts who earn 20.02 euro for carrying out the same work.
It said industrial action is to take place across Irish Wheelchair Association’s 58 locations.
The chairman of the National Disability Services Association, Barry McGinn, said they were “extremely alarmed” by the “complete lack of information” in Budget 2024 about the additional 64 million euro for the disability sector.
“Disability Service providers are left completely in the dark as to whether they will be able to continue to provide the same level of services into 2024,” he said.
“Worryingly, the Budget fails to address the long-standing issue of equality and pay-parity for Section 39 workers, notwithstanding the imminent threat of strike facing several of our members.
“Furthermore, there is no reference to essential inflationary funding, which was provided in last year’s budget.”