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Now welfare payments hit as union's row spreads

Thousands of people on welfare benefits were today caught up in the row which has caused mayhem at the passport offices all week.

Social welfare offices across the country are to be closed as the union at the centre of the passport row announced plans to extend its campaign to reverse Budget pay cuts.

The Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) has said it will close the welfare offices as the passport dispute continues to worsen.

The passport office in Dublin may now face a complete shutdown after lower-paid civil servants served notice of strike action to start in seven days if management dock their pay.


Their action has already increased the massive backlog in passport applications to 50,000 and this will rise dramatically with any strike action.

Queues have formed over-night outside the Dublin office every day this week and yesterday one frustrated man chained himself to a door inside the office after being told his passport was not there.

Colin Gillick (34) from Aughrim, Co Wicklow, who applied for his passport a fortnight ago, queued all night on Tuesday outside the office only to be told his passport "hadn't even gone through the system".

He was eventually told to return to the office tomorrow to collect his documents for a flight to Thailand on Monday where he is to be best man at his brother's wedding.


Other desperate travellers switched their applications from Dublin to the Cork office where queues are now forming and the backlog looks set to grow.

The Department of Foreign Affairs plans to reduce the wages of passport office staff if there are more office closures.

It has also accused civil service unions of blocking its plan to take on 50 extra temporary workers to deal with the extra pressure.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said the unions' deal to make applications from people travelling within days a priority would not have a big impact.

The Secretary General of the Department, David Cooney, said the backlog was now so big that all applications were considered urgent and the union offer was "too little too late".