Tuesday 25 July 2017

Staff agree to issue 'urgent' passports as chaos spreads

Anne-Marie Walsh, Shane Hickey and Ralph Riegel

PEOPLE with imminent travel plans will get passports, civil servants conceded yesterday but other essential public offices will close today.

State employees agreed to "amend" their industrial action at the Passport Office in Dublin to make those with immediate travel plans eligible for emergency passports, rather than only those recently bereaved.

But all Revenue offices will be shut until 1pm today as public servants continue their action over Budget pay cuts.

A phone ban will hit communications at the Houses of the Oireachtas, four government departments and other state offices in the afternoon.

The dispute at the Passport Office resulted in another day of chaos to the public due to the ongoing work-to rule and a bomb hoax.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said the decision of the CPSU to accommodate people with imminent travel plans was welcome, but would not have any major impact on the 40,000 backlog.

"I sincerely believe that the present industrial action is not fair on families or people travelling on business or for personal reasons," he said.

"The only answer to the current difficulties is to go back to normal working and deal with the backlog of applications."

Mr Martin said thousands of people wanted to travel abroad or return home during the peak season.

"It is essential that the unions drop their overtime ban and also it is important that the annual recruitment of 50 temporary staff is allowed to go ahead to deal with the seasonal demand," he added.

"It is simply wrong to blame staff shortages for some of the current difficulties while blocking the recruitment of these extra workers."

The Department of Foreign Affairs insisted it would still dock pay if there were further closures.

But areas that will be hit by the action today and tomorrow said they have not decided whether to dock pay yet.

Services to be hit during today's action are Revenue, the Oireachtas, the Central Statistics Office, the Chief State Solicitors Office, and the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Defence, Health and Children (including the Adoption Board) and Agriculture.

Tomorrow further action will hit social welfare offices, the Valuation Office, the OPW, FAS and the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Environment, and Education.

At the Passport Office, it appeared that almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, with the Molesworth Street facility hit by a bomb hoax. Hundreds queued outside -- some from 3am.

The head of the Passport Office, Joe Nugent, has agreed to attend today's emergency meeting of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee in a bid to solve the impasse.

CPSU official Theresa Dwyer said there will be no escalation while talks are under way at the LRC.

Irish Independent

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