Firefighters in Cork vote for strike action in pay restoration dispute

Firefighters in Cork City who voted overwhelmingly for strike action say there is still time for the dispute, regarding back-money linked to pay restoration, to be resolved before they withdraw labour.

Shop steward Billy Crowley said he hopes the resounding vote over the weekend — 98% in favour of industrial action and 95% in favour of strike action — sends a clear message to City Hall.

“It’s clear the support we have from the floor and it gives us a strong mandate,” he said.

“We hope it will open channels of communication and motivate management to come to the table and resolve this before it goes any further. We would prefer to sort this out before there is a withdrawal of labour.

“We are now calling on council management and the relevant ministers to honour the agreements.”

City Hall said the actions of the firefighters are a cause of “serious concern” but stressed that it is available “at all times” to meet union representatives to discuss a resolution.

An increase of €500 in the rate of rent allowance and associated salary scale consolidations for firefighters was part of the extension of the Public Sector Stability Agreement 2018-20, the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

The adjustments, which were due to have been applied in July 2017 and January 2018, were withheld from full-time brigades nationally, with the exception of Dublin Fire Brigade, triggering unofficial work-to-rule action in the affected brigades last April.

In Cork, firefighters refused to log incidents using a computerised system, opting to use the old paper-based system.

This action led to written commitments that the adjustments would be paid within eight weeks — the Cork brigade is the only full-time brigade still waiting for their money.

In a statement, Cork City Council said the issues are linked to the “non-engagement of fire personnel in safety training over an extended period” which has forced the cancellation of several training courses.

“The Labour Court issued two recommendations, both of which stated that the firefighters should participate in all scheduled training,” it said.

In accordance with the recommendations, the council enlisted the services of the Workplace Relations Commission [WRC] to assist in bringing all outstanding issues to a constructive conclusion.

“The work of the WRC is ongoing in this regard and the next meeting is scheduled for later this month.”

The council said the firefighters’ unofficial industrial action, which started on June 18, is “a complete breach” of the Public Service Agreements and established industrial relations procedures.

It insisted it has paid the firefighters all increases due but can not pay the back money until the firefighters “comply in full” with the terms of the Public Service Agreements.

Mr Crowley said the WRC process is ongoing and confidential.


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