SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 28th December) confirmed that more than 7,000 support grade staff working in major hospitals and other healthcare centres across the state will be balloted for strike action early in the New Year.   The decision follows a Government refusal to concede an increase awarded to them through an independent job evaluation process that was concluded under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement. SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “Our members working in support grades in the health service will be balloted for strike action in January. This is a result of both the Government and the HSE ignoring formal requests to engage with SIPTU representatives concerning the conduct of the job evaluation process which concluded in October. “We agreed with the Government on the reintroduction of the support staff job evaluation scheme in 2016, after it had been suspended in 2009. Unfortunately, the HSE and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform delayed the start of the evaluation process and are now further delaying the implementation of its findings. Our members have been significantly disadvantaged as a result. “Phase one and two of the evaluation process determined that SIPTU members employed in several grades, including Health Care Assistants, Maternity Care Assistants, Laboratory Aides and Surgical Instrument Technicians, have been substantially underpaid for many years. The cost of implementing the scheme is believed to be approximately €17 million, with many members advancing one or two grades within the existing four band Support Staff pay scale.” He added: “The agreed job evaluation process has independently confirmed that thousands of support staff employed directly by the HSE and in Section 38 organisations perform duties of a higher skillset than those set out in their original job descriptions. In some cases, our members have been underpaid by up to €6,000 a year.”