Bid to resolve social welfare offices dispute

THE National Implementation Body will today try to resolve the dispute between the Department of Social and Family Affairs and its staff before workers begin all-out strike action.

As of yesterday, 2,500 of the department’s staff who are members of the Civil Public and Services Union were refusing to answer telephones or work overtime in protest at the failure by management to introduce flexi-time arrangements.

The union said the Department must implement the 2001 agreement for the extension of flexi-time attendance patterns which has been adopted in other areas of the civil service.

However, the Department said its difficulty with conceding the extension was based on the nature of the its business and customer service requirements.

It claimed that in return for extending flexi-time bands it would require cooperation with a new ‘Time and Attendance’ system which would see social welfare offices open for an additional half hour.

“It is the Department’s view that an extension of the flexi bands to create circumstances where the public would not have direct access to services for 4.5 hours of an 11 hour working day at pilot local offices simply would not be consistent with the business requirements of the Department which are primarily focussed on service delivery,” it said.

As regards that service delivery, yesterday thousands of people trying to find information from the Department struggled to get through given the telephone ban.

According to the CPSU, some of its members were given verbal warnings for not answering the phones. The union said if the Department tried to issue formal written warnings or went a step further and took people off the payroll it would react immediately in the strongest terms given that it has a mandate for all-out strike action.

The two sides come before the National Implementation Body today knowing that the intervention of third parties has failed to find common ground in recent months.

Meanwhile, IMPACT and the Health Service Executive will hold a second day of meetings over the ongoing industrial action being taken by 28,000 of the union’s members over the perceived recruitment freeze.

The health professionals are currently on a work to rule and are refusing to carry out any of their reporting duties or attend meetings about the administrative side of the health service.

Yesterday the two sides met for less than two hours and agreed to reconvene at 1.30pm today.


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