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Unions warn we face summer of strikes

UNIONS have warned of a "summer of strikes" as the prospect of mass industrial action looms.

Hospitals, airports, schools and offices of public administration all face serious disruption if the "worst case scenario" of industrial action goes ahead.

The threat comes following the collapse of recent pay talks at Croke Park.

Unions say that they are prepared for action if the Government legislates for pay cuts.

The Government has been playing hard ball with the unions and is warning that they will move within days to enact legislation to cut pay and stop incremental increases.

The Labour Relations Commission is involved in last-minute talks in a bid to prevent strike action, but only has until Tuesday to find agreement.

However, sources say the prospect of any new "over-arching" agreement is highly unlikely as both sides are deeply entrenched.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin will meet his Cabinet colleagues next Tuesday for crunch talks.

The Commission has until then to build up a report on response from the unions.

Commission chief Kieran Mulvey has held 35 meetings with civil and public sector unions over the past 10 days to determine the steps in the deadlock.

The message that Mr Mulvey communicated to the unions from Government outlined that there would no longer be a commitment to no redundancies in the pubic sector.

Unions have so far rejected the proposals to cut the State pay and pensions' bill by €300m this year.

The National Ambulance Service Representative Association say union members are emphatic that they "can't take any more cuts".

And other union sources said that the country is certainly facing a "summer of industrial unrest". "We are at the edge of a cliff now. There is only one way to go – to fall over the edge. We can't walk back now," they told the Herald.

"Take a Friday afternoon and if all the 'blue light services' pull the plug for four hours.

"This would mean the airports and ports will close, there will be no emigration, no exports, no emergency services at all. A&E departments would not be able to function.

"That is only for four hours. Multiply that by 20. It is a frightening scenario."