OVER 100,000 public servants providing frontline services in healthcare, security and emergency response will resist Government attempts to impose the cutbacks proposed in the McCarthy report.
The new umbrella group, the Frontline Service Alliance, which brings together nurses, gardaí, firefighters and defences forces’ unions and representatives associations, had its first meeting in Dublin yesterday.
Irish Nurses’ Organisation general secretary Liam Doran condemned commentators who want to slash and burn but “fail to identify what essential services they actually want to cut, or acknowledge that such services are essential to any civilised society”.
He was flanked by the new group’s chairman Des Kavanagh of the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association, and spokespeople from the Garda Representative Association, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, PDFORRA, the Prison Officers’ Association and SIPTU’s nursing branch.
Announcing a series of regional meetings, the alliance outlined its opposition to the proposed cuts in public service provision and pay detailed in Colm McCarthy’s Bord Snip Nua report.
Drawing attention to TDs’ allowances and the failure to prosecute bankers for their behaviour, Mr Doran contrasted this with frontline public servants “who do more than their patriotic duty every day.” There was a call for private sector workers not to be hoodwinked into a false conflict with the public sector by politicians.
Association of Garda Sergeant and Inspectors general secretary Joe Dirwan said there was growing anger and demoralisation in the force.
He said: “Gardaí are now also paying more than their fair share of tax — the combination of the levies, taxation and PRSI has resulted in income being reduced by more than 12%.
“The closure of more Garda stations will accelerate the separation of the gardaí from the communities they serve and drive a wedge between communities and their Garda service.”
PDFORRA general secretary Gerry Rooney said the imposition of pension, income and health levies had already resulted in “deductions of approximately €4,000 per annum for a typical soldier.”
This had already seen people leaving the defence forces. Any further pay cuts would lead in some cases to mortgage difficulties resulting in “homes being lost.”
With members of the gardaí and the defences forces legally barred from striking, Mr Rooney said PDFORRA would be resolute in opposing any cutbacks but would not do anything which broke the law.
Garda Representative Association general secretary PJ Stone said he was also mindful of the legal restriction on industrial action by his members.
The group’s leadership said the nature of their protest campaign had yet to be decided and would be defined by the Government’s actions.
Mr Doran said they hoped to be able to rely on “the weight of the alliance’s collective, moral persuasion on the body politic.” However, he would not rule out possible strike action in the health sector.
Frontline staff: How they are hit
Moiria Wynn, staff nurse, Dublin:
“My wages are down between €250 to €300 a month, some of my colleagues are down €600 a month. I keep hearing about the cost of living going down but certainly I have not seen that. I’m tried of public servants being villainised, we provide a service everyday of the year looking after the most vulnerable in society and people need to remember it is not a businesses we are talking about, it’s people and society.”
Jim Mitchell, prison officer, Dublin, 20 years’ service:
“Last night I worked the nightshift. During the night a prisoner was beaten up and I had to be taken over to the hospital. When I was there what do you see but nurses up to their eyeballs and guards bringing people in right, left and centre — this is where this alliance is coming from because we know the difficulty of the jobs people are doing. This is why the denigrating we see of the public service we take quite personally.”
Brendan Quinn, paramedic, 20 years’ experience:
“The amount of disposable income I have is down considerably, about €60-€70 on a given week, besides... that there is the threat of further cuts. I just don’t know how much of a further cut I’m going to be expected to take. I think we need a bit of equity and fairness in the system where everyone will be seen to shoulder their fair portion of the debts that obviously need to be paid. I haven’t seen any decrease in my bills, if anything they are going up. I have a teenage daughter in school and I’ve spent over €1,000 on books alone.”
Garda Damien McCarthy, Dublin city centre:
“We don’t have the right to strike or ballot our members, so gardaí are demanding some sort of respect from the Government. I have been in the force since 2002. Many, many of my colleagues are stuck in negative equity after committing to mortgages of a 20 to 40-year life span. We simply will not be able to sustain another cut. Terms and conditions have been changed dramatically. This is simply about survival now. There is anger and major fear in the force, people talk about market collapse, our market has not collapsed, it’s getting busier and more dangerous than ever for gardaí. If the McCarthy report is implemented it simply will not be sustainable. If we default on a loan we are subject to disciplinary proceeding — that is adding to the fear.”
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