Dole staff threaten action over safety fears
DOLE offices may be hit by industrial action over the removal of glass security screens after staff raised concerns for their safety.
Workers at four offices have voted overwhelmingly in favour of action if the Department of Social Protection forges ahead with plans to abolish the screens at "high-risk" offices.
A total of 122 staff at unemployment offices in Kings Inn and Tallaght in Dublin, Arklow, and Sligo have backed industrial action. Only seven voted against.
The removal of the screens is part of the National Employment and Entitlements Service roll-out, a scheme that will offer employment services as well as paying benefits.
This would initially mean dismantling screens at counters in reception areas.
There have been reports of a number of violent incidents at a minority of offices, including drinks cans being hurled and spitting at staff.
Sources said more serious incidents included an attempted suicide at one office, while someone was set on fire at another.
And "open warfare" among gangs at Limerick offices meant different attendance times were given to individuals to separate them.
The department declined to comment on the reports. In a statement, it said it does not comment on industrial relations matters. It said it plans an integrated service "where the customers will be able to transact their business in as open an environment as possible".
The Civil, Public and Services Union, which represents the staff, said the ballot was "protective" and would not be acted on unless talks with management, which are under way, collapsed.
The unions is also objecting to extended opening hours at the offices.