| 6.6°C Dublin

Unions wage 'cold war' in first phase of pay-cut battle

PUBLIC services face massive disruption after unions unveiled a campaign of industrial action that may escalate into a "wide-scale strike".

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) leaders said they had no option but to take action, threatening rolling stoppages and work-to-rules that would seriously inconvenience the public in a bid to reverse the public-sector pay cut.

National strikes may still be on the cards but a strategy document by ICTU's Public Services Committee reveals the campaign will centre on public servants operating an effective cold war with the Government.

The campaign that starts immediately will include total non-co-operation with management reforms like redeployment to areas with severe pressure on services -- including social welfare and health.

Services in all sectors including schools, colleges, hospitals, and public offices will be in the firing line when the campaign intensifies next month.

Unions said they were forced into this position after the Government imposed a second pay cut in less than a year, threatened compulsory redundancies and announced plans to devalue pensions.

The ICTU committee warned that its plan of action would be "strong and sustained" after pay had been slashed by between 5pc and 15pc to reduce the state payroll by €1bn.

It said the campaign was a response to the Government's decision to forego the opportunity to reach an settlement with its employees in favour of an approach based on the principle of attack.

"Public servants have shown that they have no particular wish to take any action that inconveniences the public that they serve," said committee secretary Tom Geraghty. "However, the Government has ensured that there is now no alternative. The consequences of that situation rest firmly at the Government's door.

"The committee is determined to ensure that public servants are treated with fairness and respect and is resolved to take action necessary to protect public servants' pay, pensions and tenure."

It vowed to support members if management attempted to victimise those who support the campaign.

The campaign will involve all unions, including the education unions; IMPACT; SIPTU; the Civil, Public and Services Union; the Public Service Executive Union; and Irish Nurses Organisation. It means:

  • Selective strike action to be used intermittently alongside a sustained work-to-rule campaign "at certain times in certain areas".
  • The possibility of a wide-scale strike at a "strategic point" in the campaign.
  • A blanket refusal by state employees to co-operate with the Government's plan to "transform" the public sector.
  • Demonstrations and protests.
  • Industrial action in areas where there is the threat of compulsory redundancies or disciplinary action due to non-co-operation.
  • Political lobbying and examination of the possibility of legal action over pay cuts or changes to pensions.

The committee accused the Government of reneging on a deal it had accepted during talks before the Budget.

A proposed agreement centred on a controversial plan to give public servants two weeks' unpaid leave in lieu of a straight pay cut.

The committee claimed the decision to cut public sector pay was taken to pave the way for wage reductions across the economy.

Irish Independent