Friday 20 October 2017

Public sector offices to shut for lunch in action over Budget cuts

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

CIVIL servants plan to shut busy offices, including social welfare, at lunchtimes when they begin industrial action over the €1bn public sector pay cuts this week.

A union for lower-paid civil servants is expected to close essential public services, including dole, revenue and passport offices, between 1pm and 2.30pm from tomorrow.

The Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) was the first union to serve notice of industrial action as part of a wider campaign across the public sector to force the Government to reverse the pay cuts.

The campaign will escalate next month, with the possibility of a widescale strike.

Along with the plan to close public offices during lunch, CPSU members will begin work-to-rule industrial action tomorrow. The union, whose members are in clerical officer grades, has also threatened rolling stoppages before the end of the month.

It may also instruct them to refuse to answer phones in some regions, a tactic it used during a dispute over the pension levy last year.

The action in the civil service will see members refuse to work outside strict office hours from 9.15am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 5.30pm.

Sources revealed the campaign would be stepped up in the coming weeks as civil servants in higher grades, who do not get paid overtime, refuse to work any extra hours.

The overtime ban will involve members of IMPACT, who will not take action until January 25, and the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS).

The AHCPS still has to ballot its members -- mainly principal officer grades -- as it has no mandate for industrial action.

Major strikes are not likely until the middle of next month as other public sector unions will only join the campaign over the next few weeks.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers is still in the middle of a ballot for industrial action.

Although the CPSU has a mandate for the action it is planning next week, it does not have a mandate to strike and will be holding a ballot on this from the end of the month.

Impact and the Irish Nurses' Organisation served notice of action last week and are not expected to take action until January 25.

Threats

Siptu and the Public Service Executive Union are expected to serve the legally required seven days' notice of action this week.

ICTU's Public Services Committee is co-ordinating the campaign in protest at the "second public service pay cut" in under a year, which reduced pay by between 5 and 15pc.

The campaign is also directed against the Government over threats of compulsory redundancies and changes to pensions announced in the Budget.

Unions fear the Government will come back for more savings in next year's Budget, possibly by cutting their pensions.

"Public servants have... no particular wish to take any action that inconveniences the public that they serve," said Public Services Committee secretary Tom Geraghty.

"However, the Government has ensured that there is now no alternative.

"The consequences of that situation rest firmly at the Government's door," he added.

Irish Independent

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