Passport Office staff will be able to recoup lost wages
Published 01/04/2010 | 05:00
CIVIL servants at the Passport Office are set to recoup the wages they lost during industrial action that caused chaos for thousands of people planning to travel.
They will start working extra hours again to clear a backlog of 50,000 passport applications after their union voted to lift a ban on overtime yesterday.
During the two-week ban on overtime, the workers sacrificed their additional overtime payments to process passports.
It will now take the same amount of overtime to deal with the backlog.
But they will not agree to train 50 new temporary recruits sanctioned by the Department of Finance to cope with the Easter seasonal demand.
Their union, the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), said it could not allow the non-unionised hirings to go ahead while its dispute over the public-sector pay cuts is ongoing.
A decision to lift the four-week ban on overtime that began on March 15 was taken at a meeting of the union's executive committee yesterday.
A motion to lift the ban was recommended by CPSU general secretary Blair Horan after public service unions brokered a draft deal with the Government to resolve the pay cuts row.
Most unions will continue low-key industrial action until their leadership meets in the coming weeks to decide whether to recommend the deal when they ballot members.
But the CPSU has not planned any further public office closures and phone bans this week.
A decision has not been made on whether a majority or unanimous vote by the public sector unions will be necessary for agreement on the proposed public service deal, but sources said a majority will probably be enough.
This could mean that a minority of union members could be left to continue their campaign of industrial action if most of their colleagues back it.
There has been mixed reaction among unions to the draft deal brokered at Croke Park in the early hours of Tuesday that gives a guarantee of no further pay cuts before 2014.
The Teachers' Union of Ireland executive has already decided against it and members of the union's Dublin City post-primary branch are holding a press conference today to oppose the agreement, which they claim contains no gains and will mean massive job losses.
But the success of the deal is likely to depend on whether it gets the backing of the largest public sector unions, including IMPACT and SIPTU.
It will take some weeks for ballots to take place, so the unions' collective verdict will probably not be finalised until the middle of May.
In addition to the guarantee of no pay cuts, the deal also allows a review of wages on an annual basis from next spring that could see some of the lost cash being returned, although there is no guarantee this will happen.
Money will be reimbursed if an independent body can verify that savings have been made through extensive reforms across the public service.
Despite agreeing to lift the overtime ban, some CPSU members said they would vote against the deal as it did not achieve their aim of getting a reversal of pay cuts this year.
CPSU trustee and Socialist Party councillor Terry Kelleher claimed his own union leadership was "out of touch". The union's executive committee decided to defer a decision on whether to recommend the deal until it meets again on April 12.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it would not comment on the union's decision to lift the overtime ban until it got an official statement from the CPSU.