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Friday 29 August 2014

Council staff refuse to do overtime to repair storm-hit roads

Ralph Riegel

Published 31/03/2014 | 02:30

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LOCAL authority workers are refusing to work overtime – even though councils have relaxed the purse-strings in a desperate bid to repair storm-ravaged roads.

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Roads in Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo and Limerick suffered the brunt of the damage from the worst winter of storms and floods in living memory.

The combination of floods, storms and fallen trees left many roads impassable.

In other areas, potholes have expanded to the point where motorists complained that vehicles are being damaged on a daily basis.

Councils were so concerned about the state of many country roads they have been allowed to temporarily ease bans on overtime payments in a bid to fast-track repairs by outdoor crews.

For five years, councils imposed a strict no-overtime ban in a bid to contain wage costs and stay within reduced budgets.

However, the response from workers to the relaxation of the overtime ban earlier this month was described by one council official as "surprising and disappointing". Road repair crews were asked to work until 6.30pm on selected projects in a bid to speed up repairs on critically damaged roads.

In Cork, just 25pc of crews in some areas signalled that they were willing to take up the overtime work offer. In other areas, the response was even worse.

One worker, who asked to be unnamed, said the low take-up of overtime was for a number of reasons. "Some believe that the extra work should see extra staff recruited on a full-time basis," he said. "Others just don't think it is worth it given the pay involved and the amount of it that is clawed back by the Government in taxes and charges."

Local authority staff are paid overtime at two different rates depending on their pay scale.

Workers who annually earn less than €35,000 are paid overtime at a rate of 150pc.

Those who earn over €35,000 a year are paid overtime at a rate of 125pc. However, the scale of Ireland's road repair crisis is underlined by the fact that Cork County Council, Ireland's largest authority in terms of geographic area, confirmed it has had to launch an emergency repair programme.

The programme will operate for five to six weeks in a bid to tackle the most heavily damaged roads.

Irish Independent

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