SIPTU representatives have today (Monday, 22nd January) demanded that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) clarify whether its officials gave a formal instruction which resulted in the Health Service Executive (HSE) holding off on submitting a €68 million proposal that would cover a settlement in the dispute involving Section 39 workers. SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The DPER must clarify this issue, which was reported by the media this morning, as it directly effects the claim by our members in Section 39 organisations for pay justice. Media reports state that several hundred million euros intended to cover ‘financial risks’ were not included in the health service plan due to an intervention by officials from the Department of Health. It is our understanding that the position taken by the Department of Health was due to an instruction from DPER in relation to the funding of the service plan. “The original funding proposals included €68 million that the HSE had earmarked as provision for outstanding pay claims. Our members in Section 39 organisations see this as a clear situation of their claim for payment being withheld due to political interference.” He added: “It is unacceptable that the HSE and Department of Health have seemingly presented a budget for a service plan which does not include funds for addressing many key issues. In simple terms, this means that the HSE will struggle to deliver on its obligations to retain staff and provide services to the public. It is clear to our members that the health service plan is designed to fail.”