CPSU blocks bid to clear passport backlog
A UNION has been urged to allow new recruits to be taken on at the Passport Office to help clear a huge backlog in applications that has soared above 66,000.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the backlog that exists is 25,000 passports more than it should be at this time of year.
The turnaround in applications stands at 20 working days.
There has been little sign of a rebate in the mounting applications as demand reaches a peak ahead of the summer, despite the ending of a ban on overtime by staff at the office.
But the department claimed it could make major inroads in reducing the paperwork if the Civil, Public and Services Union allowed it to take on 50 staff on a temporary basis.
The union said it could not allow the hiring to go ahead while its dispute with the Government over pay cuts is still ongoing.
Although the union has scaled back action at the office, it has refused to allow recruits to be taken on.
There had been hope that talks between unions and the Government over pay cuts could end the ongoing action.
However, the CPSU is keeping its ban on temporary staff recruitment in place after its leadership rejected the deal that came out of the discussions.
"While we have scaled back the dispute, it hasn't finished," said CPSU General Secretary Blair Horan.
"We are not going to have a situation where management can replace permanent staff with temporary staff. We would not have an objection to permanent staff being taken on.
"The department had no temporary workers last year and the reason it wants to have them this year is because of the lack of staff due to the ban on recruit- ment in the public service.
"Last year, it did not have a need for temporary staff and it was dealt with by over-time rather than temporary staff."
He said the union previously took legal action to ensure that people on fixed-term contracts were made permanent, and was not prepared to allow temporary staff in on this basis.
Meanwhile, in a letter to branch secretaries yesterday, Mr Horan said the union had achieved concessions in talks with Government for workers on low pay due to industrial action, including the dispute at the Passport Office.
He said phone and counter bans had been suspended pending a ballot of members but all other action remained in place.