Second union votes for strike action — but only with backing of ICTU

THE Public Service Executive Union yesterday became the second union to vote in favour of action — up to and including strikes — over the Government’s public service pension levy.

With action by Civil, Public and Services Unions due to go ahead on February 26, the PSEU’s 10,000 members voted 71% in favour of the action. However, they will not activate their action unless as part of a united campaign orchestrated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

The executive of ICTU meets in Dublin this afternoon to discuss how to progress that campaign in opposition to the Government’s strategy for economic recovery.

Following the success of last Saturday’s national protest march, which attracted up to 120,000 participants, it is widely expected the ICTU will ask all unions to ballot their members for action up to and including strike over:

The public service pension levy.

The continued growth in unemployment.

The failure of Government to seek a contribution towards economic recovery from the wealthy in society.

The failure to protect those most vulnerable from the effects of the recession.

Unions, particularly in the private sector, will have to structure their ballot to tailor it to different types of employment. One source pointed out that given the mounting unemployment in the private sector, workers may be reluctant to do anything that might affect the performance of their employer and therefore threaten its viability.

Most unions have already indicated their willingness to ballot for industrial action. However, the two most prominent which have yet to declare a ballot — IMPACT and SIPTU — are more than likely to confirm their participation this afternoon.

In the background, union leaders are continuing to hold informal talks with the Government on a return to the social partnership table. It is almost two weeks since ICTU presented Brian Cowen and the Cabinet with its 10-point plan for economic recovery.

That document is based heavily on the framework document which failed to meet with agreement during eight days of talks between the social partners three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) is to hold a protest rally in Dublin tomorrow at Parnell Square at 1.30pm and marching to the Dáil.

The GRA said the Government’s proposal to introduce the levy on earnings is causing extreme concern.

“It was determined that gardaí were not entitled to pay increases under benchmarking awards because of pensions and the GRA reluctantly accepted this position. To have a further imposition on our wages is totally unfair, unacceptable and must be resisted,” said general secretary PJ Stone.

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