Public sector workers plan indefinite strikes
Crippling strike action over public sector pay cuts moved closer last night.
The Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), which represents 13,000 lower paid staff, served notice of strike action of indefinite or limited duration and a four-week ban on overtime from Monday week. It has also threatened to immediately place pickets on any location if a member is removed from the payroll.
Members of other public sector unions -- including the PSEU, Impact, SIPTU and the AHCPS -- are unlikely to pass pickets mounted by colleagues.
CPSU general secretary Blair Horan last night warned that strikes are "likely".
Strike action could shut down public offices including social welfare, passport, and revenue departments; the courts; and the Oireachtas, which is already struggling due to counter closures, disruption to phone and email services, and a refusal by workers to handle parliamentary questions, speeches and ministerial reports.
And the health sector may also be in the grip of sporadic work stoppages, lasting for a few hours at a time. Unions will, at a meeting on Monday, consider a proposal from IMPACT and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation to escalate action through rolling work stoppages.
The CPSU, which sent notice of strike action to the Department of Finance yesterday, is one of the most militant public sector unions and has spoken out against a 5pc pay cut inflicted on members earning less than €30,000.
The CPSU letter said they would target specific departments and locations after 83pc of members voted in favour of strike action. The campaign escalated yesterday with public sector employers getting just one hour's notice that communications at the Houses of the Oireachtas would be disrupted.
Union members then refused to transfer phone calls or forward emails to government departments. An Oireachtas spokesman said that although calls were answered at the main switchboard, they were not being transferred.
The HSE also suffered serious disruption due to a phone ban during the morning as the campaign intensified.
When the Irish Independent tried to contact Oireachtas director of human resources Sean McGrath about his plans to cope with the intensified campaign the switchboard was down due to a phone ban.
There is evidence that departments are already burdened with administrative backlogs.
During the week, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said 74pc of 58 questions tabled to Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin had been rejected due to industrial action.
HSE managers have admitted they are receiving so little information from staff about services that they cannot supply a performance record to a board meeting next week, which is affecting patient care.
Yesterday's action at Leinster House came after staff from three unions set up a joint disputes committee to disrupt Oireachtas business.
CPSU assistant general secretary Theresa Dwyer said the cross-union approach showed the sense of outrage among workers. "Further combined and more disruptive action now seems inevitable," she said.