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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Prison officers threaten strike

Published 02/05/2013 | 03:21

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Some prison officers are struggling to make ends meet, a union says

Prison officers have threatened the Government with potential strike action if it imposes unilateral pay cuts.

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With the coalition still committed to shaving 300 million euro from the public pay bill this year, the Prison Officers' Association (POA) said it would ballot members for industrial action if it goes through with its plans.

Union president Stephen Delaney said members would do everything in their power to resist the cuts.

"The POA will engage in finding a solution, but let's be crystal clear, we will not support any measures which are more stringent than the package of proposals that was already reluctantly accepted by our members," Mr Delaney said. "That is our position which is non-negotiable."

The union's national executive council brought an emergency motion to its three-day annual delegate conference, which opened in Athlone, Co Westmeath, on Wednesday.

The motion states that should the Government decide to unilaterally impose pay cuts by way of legislation, the council would convene immediately to conduct a ballot for industrial action - up to and including strike.

"Subject to conference approval I want to stress that the POA will do what needs to be done if attempts are made to introduce further pay cuts to our members," Mr Delaney added. "Five years of austerity has had a massive impact on prison officers and their families. Many are hurting and are under great financial pressure."

He said a certain percentage of members already struggle to make ends meet, with increasing numbers having trouble with their mortgage. Mr Delaney said they were on the verge of becoming part of the economic problem. "Our commitment to this crisis cannot be questioned," he added. "It is outrageous that the Government would again target prison officers by introducing pay cuts to resolve a problem which we did not create."

Industrial relations mediator Kieran Mulvey is in the midst of efforts to coax unions back into pay talks following the collapse of Croke Park II, which was overwhelmingly rejected last month. The Labour Relations Commission chief warned unions over the weekend that the Government will impose pay cuts and increment freezes if a deal to reduce the public sector pay bill is not reached within two weeks.

Last week, the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) warned its members would fight if the Government enforces pay cuts, which could also lead to a strike, while the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) had already ruled out re-entering negotiations. The TUI, CPSU, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, the Association of Secondary Teachers' of Ireland, Siptu and the Irish Nurses' and Midwives' Organisation all voted against the first deal - despite the Government's threat of unilateral pay cuts and reforms.

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