SIPTU warns of widespread strike action

SIPTU has warned of a wave of national strikes if tens of thousands of workers are not given an agreed wage increase.

The head of the country’s largest union warned of nationwide chaos by November if any of its 200,000 members in both the public and private sector were not given the increases agreed in last September’s national wage deal.

In the hardening of the union’s stance Jack O’Connor said no alternative had been negotiated by the Government and employers’ bodies to that deal. In September it was agreed:

* An initial 3.5% increase for private sector employees, followed by 2.5% for the following 12 months.

* A 3.5% rise for public sector workers on September 1 this year following an 11-month pay pause, to be followed by a further 2.5% in 2010.

However, in the private sector the vast majority of companies either cannot or claim they cannot afford the increases.

And in the public sector, the Government has notonly forsaken the 3.5% increase but is widely expected to seek 5% decreases in wages in order to recoup some of the €4bn it needs to save this year alone. The demand from SIPTU for its 70,000 public service members alone would cost the Government €86m based on an average wage.

Jack O’Connor said: “We conducted a ballot February into March and we secured an overwhelming mandate to take industrial action and strike action to persuade the employers to either comply with the agreement that had been negotiated, or come to the table and renegotiate an alternative. We will be pressing ahead with that (industrial action) after renewing the ballot.”

Yesterday the union served its 3.5% pay claim for the 34,000 members it has working in the HSE, including paramedics, nurses and manual grades.

The HSE said it would “process the claim through its normal channels” but pointed out that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had informed the Dáil that increases provided for under the last agreement would not be paid on their due dates.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions meets in Dublin this morning to decide an overarching response to Government plans to cut pay, conditions and numbers in the public service.

Union sources say that in addition to lobbying and campaigning against any cuts, the recommendation from ICTU is likely to entail further mass public protests on the streets and a number of unions are likely to signal they will join IMPACT and SIPTU in balloting for strike action.


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