State staff to strike if forced into 90km work round trip
STAFF at a government department have threatened to go on strike if they are forced to make 90km round trips to work.
Clerical officers at a Department of Agriculture local office have backed plans for industrial action after being told they will be redeployed to work in offices miles from their base in Donegal.
The department decided the staff, who work at its Raphoe office, are "surplus" to requirements and should move to offices in Donegal town, Buncrana and Letterkenny.
But the staff, who provide veterinary and other services to the farming community, have voted 100pc in favour of industrial action if they are forced to move, claiming they do not have transport to get to the offices.
This is despite the fact that the Croke Park deal rules out industrial action and allows staff to be moved up to 45km radius of their workplace or home address.
However, the agreement also says "regard will also be had to reasonable daily commute time".
The Civil, Public and Services Union, which represents the staff, said the ballot was necessary because the department would be in breach of the agreement if it moved its members.
It said this was because there was no appeals process in place.
CPSU general secretary Eoin Ronayne said this was unlike other parts of the public sector which had an arbitration process approved by the Labour Court.
The union leader said there were no, or very poor, public transport services in the area, particularly to Buncrana.
He said the vote was a protective ballot in support of around eight members who were asked to move, but all 19 members at the office would hold a work stoppage if members were taken off the payroll for refusing to go.
"Letterkenny is not too great a problem, but Buncrana is a 93km round trip and some of our members don't have a car or public transport and are just one or two years off retirement.
"There should be a way for them to appeal on the grounds of hardship. Up to now, Social Protection has not demanded they move and Agriculture has continued to pay them.
"What we are saying is to postpone the move until an arbitration process has been set up."
He said talks were under way with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to set up an arbitration process.