Vote by senior civil servants deepens pay row strike fear
SENIOR civil servants are set to ballot for industrial action over the €1bn Budget pay cut.
In what would be a major boost to the public sector campaign, principal and assistant principal officers will decide whether to join their colleagues in the action under way for over a month.
In a circular to its 3,500 members, the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants said strike action will be taken if a member is suspended for participating in the campaign.
General Secretary Dave Thomas said industrial action would also mean members will not take on work left due to vacant posts or co-operate with government proposals to "transform" the public sector.
Meanwhile, he said there was no reason why assistant principal officers and principal officers should not continue to write speeches or prepare answers to parliamentary questions, unless asked to fill in for members of other unions.
Participation by the AHCPS could have a dire effect on public services as it would mean only the highest management grades would be available to operate a skeleton service in the event of strikes.
It would almost certainly be impossible for managers to keep public offices open. However, it may be the end of the month before the union joins in as ballots will not be returned for up to four weeks.
For weeks, the AHCPS gave no indication if it would join the campaign being waged by civil servants in lower grades and the wider public service.
As the campaign continues today, it will be more difficult to make outpatient appointments or other calls to the health service in the south as Impact operates a phone ban this morning.
Civil service unions will refuse to run public counters at the courts, garda stations and Garda National Immigration Bureau. A phone ban will operate in the departments of Justice, Finance, Taoiseach, Arts, Sport and Tourism and Transport in the afternoon.
Social welfare and passport offices closed for half a day yesterday and a phone ban restricted several government services, including health centres and hospitals in the west.
At the social welfare office on Dublin's Tara Street in the afternoon, claimants due to sign discovered the office was closed due to industrial action. Eoin Dunne from Ringsend, who was made redundant two years ago from his job as a school porter, said it was "disgraceful".
"They have it handy," he said of workers in the department.
He is currently finding it very difficult to make ends meet and the winter has been such a cold one that at least one night a week he sits in his flat with his coat on and the heat turned off.
He has more than once been forced to burn old shoes for heat. "They used to do that years ago and I'm going back to doing that myself now," he ruefully laughed. There are no jobs available, "not even nixers," he says.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the Government wants to see the industrial relations conflict resolved. Mr Cowen pointed out the dispute was affecting the representational duties of TDs and ministers, who were finding it hard to obtain information.
Yesterday Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said 74pc of the 58 questions tabled to Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin were rejected. Health Minister Mary Harney admitted the dispute had placed pressure on her department.