Warning of escalation in unions' campaign over cuts
UNIONS yesterday warned of industrial "armageddon" if the Government does not enter talks to reverse the €1bn public-sector pay cuts.
But public services will not face major disruption for weeks after the unions delayed a major escalation in their campaign of action to give management time to consider negotiations.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) public services committee originally planned to step up action by up to 300,000 public servants this week, but yesterday it decided to wait until next month.
Senior committee member Tom Geraghty threatened that the next phase of the campaign would be "Armageddon stuff", while existing action and a work-to-rule would be ramped up in the meantime.
Some unions followed this threat through yesterday when they operated a phone ban across the entire civil service for the afternoon.
There were signs that the action could soon lead to gridlock as offices including the Dublin passport office, Legal Aid Board and government departments were hit.
The action was carried out by members of the Public Service Executive Union and Civil, Public and Services Union.
Since it began about five weeks ago, the campaign has had a limited impact, but it has slowed up administration and inconvenienced the public.
Mr Geraghty said that in the event of talks with the Government there would be no agreement that did not reverse the pay cut.
He warned: "We will give a month to re-engage but there will be a signficant escalation otherwise that will have a dramatic impact.
"We are talking about public services that are of vital importance to people. If we take people out on strike, it will be armageddon stuff.
"The ICTU is giving the Government an opportunity to think before they go down that road. We need an undertaking that the Government will not impose any more of these cuts."
The ICTU's public services committee yesterday considered a menu of options to ratchet up action, including rolling work stoppages and a ban on overtime. However, these actions would further hit members who have already suffered the pension levy and pay cuts.
A spokesperson at the Department of Finance said there was "some inconvenience" caused by the phone ban.
He added: "We are continuing to monitor the situation to see how it progresses."