Work on repairing roads and local authority houses will grind to a halt if SIPTU workers in Cork County Council vote for strike action, writes Sean O'Riordan of the Irish Examiner.
The union has confirmed it will commence ballots among its hundreds of members working for the council next Monday for industrial action up to and including strike.
The union says it is frustrated with the local authority's attitude in particular to the dwindling number of outdoor road workers and has not acted on several calls to recruit more.
Although the council's retained firemen are among SIPTU members, they will not be involved in the ballot.
SIPTU Organiser Con Casey said for many months council management had refused to employ more outdoor staff, even though they were allowed to since the Government lifted its embargo a year ago on the recruitment of local authority staff.
"We now have a situation where key sections of the council which deal with road maintenance, housing and many other essential services are now seriously understaffed," Mr Casey said.
Councillors have repeatedly called for more staff to be employed on road maintenance and housing repairs.
That roads section has suffered most from cuts to staffing in recent years.
Those who have retired have not been replaced. They also have the highest average age of all staff employed by the council and the highest sickness levels because they have to work in all weather conditions.
Council staff have to maintain 12,800kms of roads in the county and its workers are also responsible for coastal defences in several areas along the 11,000km coastline.
The outdoor workers are also involved in flood prevention works and the clean-up in the aftermath of flooding as well as ensuring roads are gritted during icy conditions.
"The running down of the ability of the council to adequately provide services for the largest local authority area in terms of land mass and coastline in the country would unfortunately seem to be part of an agenda to increase the outsourcing of work to private for profit companies," Mr Casey claimed.
The council has outsourced road repairs in the past to the private sector.
Mr Casey claimed outsourcing by council management is being pursued in contravention to national agreements.
The ballots will be counted in Connolly Hall, Cork on Friday, February 17 and the results are likely to be made known that day.