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Sinead Ryan: Either go on strike or go back to work

I imagine there are more than a few people in the queue outside the passport office today that wish the doors were firmly closed and that the staff were all out on strike. Well, at least it would be decisive instead of the mealy mouthed cowardly work-to-rule that is being enforced instead.

Uncertainty is the most unsettling feeling of all -- it's destructive, mean spirited and creates fear.

That people feel they have to queue from the middle of the night to maybe, or maybe not, collect a State document that is theirs by right is appalling. At least a strike would mean people would know where they stood. There would be pickets, an official set of demands and the knowledge that those striking must really have grievances -- because they were prepared to forego their pay for them.

Yet the staff in the passport office don't do this. They want all of the attention and all of the disruption while getting all of their pay. That is not just unfair, but outrageous and doesn't engender any public sympathy toward them at all. We know their pay has been cut back and of course it hurts. They want the cuts from last year's Budget reversed.

We'll here's what else is being cut back in the meantime: children's holidays, people visiting relatives, young graduates emigrating and business trips that might actually result in money coming into the economy rather than public sector employees draining it.

Bully boy tactics of pulling down shutters so they can't hand out passports while allegedly going off to do other administrative duties instead belies the notion that they are 'working'.

The only work that matters in Molesworth Street is making sure that customers (an alien term in the civil service, admittedly), get what they need. It is, after all, the customer who pays them.

Nowhere in the private sector is a work-to-rule like this allowed operate.


People would be fired, and justifiably so. Where workers believe they have legitimate cause to down tools, they do so under the auspices of a union, agree a date, notify the public and close the doors. Everyone is annoyed and their lives disrupted for a bit, but at least they know the score.

How dare the passport office hold the public to ransom like this? They may not believe it's important what people think, or that their job will be affected by this action, and indeed, they may seem buoyed by a disinterested Government who have other things on their minds, but union leaders such as the smug Blair Horan (whose €120,000 a year pay hasn't been touched, you'll be happy to hear) would do well to stop throwing threats around and instead broker a deal.

It is, after all, his job.

The passport office workers should get back to work and stop annoying the rest of us. There will always be some people who don't 'get' the financial mess the country is in. They don't bother to inform themselves, or even find out what they could do to help. Instead they just want to cry and wail at the rest of us that it isn't fair. Well, life isn't bloody fair, and neither is queuing for seven hours in the middle of town for travel papers.

Union leaders have a duty at a time like this and they are not doing it. It's not always about cowering to members' perceived grievances -- it's about telling them when they don't have a legitimate one and to get over it. Now is that time. If the passport workers won't do their job, Mr Horan, why don't you bloody well do yours?