Union pledges all-out strike at Passport Office if talks fail
Published 27/03/2010 | 05:00
AN all-out strike is looming in the passport office if talks on reversing the pay cuts for public servants break down this weekend.
An emergency motion unanimously adopted at the annual conference of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) yesterday sanctioned full strike action by union members at the passport office if the talks fail to deliver.
General secretary of the CPSU Blair Horan apologised to members of the public who were caught up in the chaos at Molesworth Street in Dublin. But he would not apologise for the legitimate industrial action, he said.
The negotiations between the public service unions and the government today enter the most crucial stage concerning pay, with an outcome expected by Monday or Tuesday.
And with preliminary strike notice already served on management, the CPSU executive committee will sit down with its members in the passport section next week to consult about implementing strike action.
Passport office workers were given a standing ovation by fellow public servants at the CPSU conference in Galway. But the media were lambasted for "demonising" the workers in coverage of the controversy, which has seen hundreds of members of the public queue for hours for urgently needed passports.
Branch secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs Liam Brennan slammed broadcaster Pat Kenny for apparently suggesting that the flood at the Passport Office earlier this week may have been due to "sabotage".
"Shame on him," said Mr Brennan, who had driven through the night to get to Galway, arriving at the conference centre at 4.30am.
One of his colleagues, who also travelled to the conference, was too stressed to address the conference after the difficulties she and other workers at the office had experienced.
Passport office colleague Ciaran Hodge told delegates that the problems in Molesworth Street had not happened overnight. And while he could understand the upset of the public, he, too, was upset, having taken a double pay cut.
Mr Horan said he was clear that it was management's mishandling of the situation that had caused the debacle.
"The reality for us as lower-paid civil and public servants is that the only effective voice we have involves the taking of industrial action," Mr Horan said.
He pointed out that it was nine weeks into the current dispute before the government entered into talks. "It was that fatal delay that led to the backlog in passport applications."
While lower-paid public servants had to take pay and pension cuts, top civil servants had managed to get an 8pc pay cut effectively overturned.
"For senior managers and top civil servants, who had a central role to play in organising the pay cuts of lower paid civil servants, to forego any sense of moral authority and sneakily campaign in their own interest says a lot about the priorities we have come to in this society," Mr Horan added.