Cork firefighters ballot for industrial action over pay

Firefighters in Cork City are set to ballot for industrial action next week in a dispute over back-money linked to pay restoration.

Firefighter Andy Stoddart and his daughter Evie outside City Hall. Pic: Jim Coughlan

Around 60 off-duty members of the 140-strong Cork City Fire Brigade protested in full firefighting gear, along with family members, on the steps of City Hall last night calling for council management to pay them what they’re owed under the terms of the 2015 Landsdowne Road Agreement.

It is understood the payments could be worth up to €600 to an individual firefighter.

Shop steward, Billy Crowley, said the members of every other full-time brigade in the country has received the payments:

Every other full-time brigade has been taken care of except Cork City Fire Brigade. The feeling on the ground is that where we are now is unfortunate but we didn’t cause this situation. We didn’t breach the public sector stability agreement - it was breached by management. We were left with no option but to take action.

Firefighters will be balloted on July 3, but industrial action cannot commence for 14 days.

“Strike is the nuclear option and nobody wants to go there but if that’s the way the tracks are laid, that’s the way the tracks are laid and there is very little we can do about it. We call on management within Cork City Council to honour the agreements they made with us.”

The dispute is linked to pay adjustments provided for in the Lansdowne Rd Agreement. The agreement included a consequential increase of €500 in the rate of rent allowance and associated salary scale consolidations for firefighters. These adjustments should have been applied in July 2017 and January 2018 respectively.

But the payments were withheld nationally, with the exception of Dublin Fire Brigade, which triggered unofficial work-to-rule action in the affected full-time brigades last April. This led to a written commitment from the Local Government Management Agency that the adjustments would be paid, nationally and in full, within eight weeks. The money still has not been paid to the Cork firefighters.

Firefighter Will Crowley with his sons Ethan, 3, and William, 6, outside City Hall.

In a statement, Cork City Council said the firefighters have been engaged in unofficial industrial action since last Monday which involves not undertaking several duties including entering incident calls on the council’s computerised incident recording system; undertaking drills and training; and limiting overtime crewing.

It said: “These actions are a complete breach of the Public Service Agreements and established industrial relations procedures and practices. The city council has paid its firefighters all increases due under the Public Service Agreements. Backmonies were due in relation to these increases but the council is precluded from paying these back monies until the firefighters comply in full with the terms of the Public Service Agreements. The current unofficial actions of members of Cork City Fire Service are unwarranted and regrettable.

It said it is available to meet union officials to bring the unofficial actions to a “timely and constructive conclusion”.

But Mr Crowley said they are having difficulty finding out who has made the decision to withhold this payment. He said they have been buoyed by support from the public and want the issue resolved so they can get back to “business as usual”.

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