THE campaign of industrial action by thousands of lower -paid civil servants has escalated with work-to-rule protests set to continue today and into next week. A blanket ban on answering telephone calls was imposed yesterday, affecting social welfare offices, government departments, revenue phonelines, the courts service and passport offices.
A total of 13,000 members of the Civil and Public Service Union (CPSU) refused to answer phones or make calls in the action which began at 1pm.
The union's protest against pay cuts stepped up a gear this week with thousands of clerical members taking part in regional bans as well as the nationwide action yesterday.
And with more protests planned for today, it means that customers will have been unable to contact some public services for several days.
The union cited the example of Revenue services in Limerick and Tipperary. More than 400 CPSU members of the Revenue's Limerick office and another 160 at the Nenagh branch refused to answer phones on Tuesday.
And both groups also took part in yesterday's half-day protest. Deputy General Secretary of the union Eoin Ronayne said: "That's the best part of two days so it is quite a marked escalation in our campaign."
The work to rule protests will continue today and into next week, with management receiving little or no advance notice.
Meanwhile workers are currently being balloted for full strike action, with the results expected on Monday evening.
The ramping up of the CPSU campaign comes as trade union IMPACT plans protest action for the health service next week which will include hospitals.
Around 30,000 IMPACT members working in the health sector, including both care workers and administrative staff, will stop answering phones in a protest that will rotate from one HSE area to another and last for half a day at a time.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs warned that industrial action was set to close passport offices in Dublin and Cork from 1pm today.
It also warned that, because of the ongoing industrial action, it could not guarantee turnaround times for passport applications.