Government loses pay row appeal

Ireland: The Supreme Court has ruled against two Government departments in an appeal of a case that arose from a 13-week dispute at local agricultural offices almost two years ago.

During the dispute at local offices in Castlebar, Galway, Limerick, Tralee and Clonakilty, members of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) were taken off the payroll.

This resulted from their participation in ‘limited industrial action’ which saw them refusing to carry out some of their normal duties in a dispute over promotion.

The Department of Agriculture and Food used Section 16 of the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956 to halt payment of their wages during the dispute. Members of the union in the Clonakility office challenged that action in the High Court and secured a ruling that the Department had acted ultra vires in relying on Section 16 and that the action was ‘null and void with no force and effect’.

Both the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Department of Finance subsequently appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The CPSU said the Supreme Court had upheld the decision by the High Court that “the partial withdrawal from work duties does not constitute unauthorised absence from duty under Section 16.”

Assistant general secretary Kevin Gaughran said the union’s members had been vindicated.

Welcoming the Supreme Court finding, the CPSU financial secretary Eoin Ronayne said the union needed to study the decision further, but it was very significant.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Food said it was studying the judgment.

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