Thursday 21 September 2017

Overtime ban wreaking havoc on state services

Anne-Marie Walsh

SOCIAL welfare cheques and passport applications face severe delays and national museums will close today and every Sunday up to Easter Sunday due to the row over the €1bn pay cut.

Lower paid civil servants' refusal to work overtime for the next four weeks is causing severe disruption to key state services.

The National Museum has been forced to close its three main tourist attractions during the busy St Patrick's Day festival due to the industrial action by 13,000 members of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU). The Passport Office revealed the overtime ban that began on Monday is having a severe effect on issuing passports, with the turnaround on applications now extended from 10 working days to four weeks.

Social welfare recipients will also be hit next week as around 20,000 cheque payments will be delayed by a day each week from next Monday.

Customers who receive their weekly payment by electronic fund transfer will not be affected. Today thousands of tourists will be shut out of the country's three national museums including the Archaeology Museum, Kildare Street, Dublin; the Decorative Arts and History exhibit at Collins Barracks, Dublin; and the National Museum of Country Life at Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo.

Up to 2,500 visitors would normally visit the cultural venues on St Patrick's Day alone. They will also be shut every consecutive Sunday up to and including Easter Sunday on April 11.

The passport and social welfare delays and museum closures follow a decision by the CPSU to ban its 13,000 members from working extra hours from the start of this week.

The action has already sparked controversy as the ban started the same day talks formally resumed between the Government and public sector unions on reversing the pay cut.

Unions agreed not to escalate industrial action while talks are being held, but said they would continue ongoing industrial action including public office counter closures. But the CPSU denied the overtime ban represented a ramping up of action. It said its members had been previously instructed not to work overtime -- but this was at their discretion and it was only this week that the union had decided to impose a complete ban.

Crossfire

The National Museum depends on staff working overtime as its peak periods are outside office hours.

Seamus Lynam, head of services at the National Museum, said: "We're getting caught in the crossfire over the pay cut. I don't believe the staff themselves really want to be out of pocket to this extent although they want to take action over the pay cut."

Irish Independent

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