Government warned to 'pay up' or 300,000 public servants will strike
A union president has warned the Government to "pay up or face the consequences" of coordinated industrial action by all public servants ahead of crucial new talks.
Ann McGee, of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), demanded that pay rises should be given on top of wage increases that would mark the refund of pay cuts that were suffered during the recession.
Speaking at the union's annual delegate conference in Killarney, she said the patience of its 9,500 members was now "threadbare" and warned that all 300,000 public servants may join a campaign of industrial action if demands are not met.
She was speaking ahead of talks next month between public-sector unions and the Government on a pay deal to succeed the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Delegates at the conference supported a motion to ballot on industrial action - up to strike action - if the Government refuses by June to abolish extra hours they work for free.
The motion means they will ask other civil service unions whose members work a longer working week to support them.
The additional unpaid hours were agreed under a previous public-sector pay deal and mean lower-paid civil servants do 27 extra minutes a day, or two additional hours a week.
"This conference has a significant role to play in driving our campaign for fairness and a real pay increase in the talks due to begin in May," Ms McGee said.
"Let us not shirk the message. Pay up or face the consequences - consequences that include co-ordinated industrial action by all public service unions.
"We have been patient but that patience is now threadbare."
She said the union welcomed the Government decision to bring forward a €1,000 pay rise due under the Lansdowne Road Agreement to April 1 this year - from next September.
This was to compensate public servants as they did not benefit from a €50m pay package given to gardaí to call off strikes.
However, she described the payment as a "downpayment" and said it was "not enough to address the imbalance" caused by the Garda deals brokered late last year.
Ms McGee said there was an unquestionable moral justification for the pension levy to be removed and pay to be fully restored to members earning less than €38,000 at the talks.
But she said any new deal must go further and give "real" pay increases, especially to those on lower starting points on the salary scale introduced during the financial crisis.
She said members wanted the removal of unpaid additional hours as they amounted to an "effective 6pc pay cut".
Tony Gallagher, of the Letterkenny branch, spoke in favour of the motion to ballot for industrial action if the Government does not abolish the hours by June.
He argued that members would have a mandate for industrial action in their "back pocket".
Mr Gallagher said this would strengthen the union's position in the forthcoming talks.
The union should be prepared to set out its "stall", he said, and stand up for something "at last" after nine years.