Gardaí and unions prepare strike action

GARDAÍ and trade unions meet separately in Dublin today to formulate strike action against the Government for the pay cuts it will announce in Wednesday’s budget.

Informed sources last night indicated the Garda Representative Association which represents rank and file gardaí barred by law from striking will discuss action “which will put them in direct conflict” with the Department of Justice.

During the recent public service strike, the gardaí were asked not to issue penalty points but any new action is expected to go much further.

Also meeting today is the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. It expected to discuss a number of forms of action including strike, though there is unlikely to be any disruption to the public ahead of the budget.

Last night the Irish Federation of University Teachers said if the Government cuts the pay of its members, it will sanction an equivalent withdrawal of productivity.

The Government has indicated there are unlikely to be significant surprises in that budget beyond the measures flagged so far.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will focus on child benefit, a carbon tax, reductions in building projects and slashing the public sector pay bill by €1.3bn.

Government programmes and quangos will also have their budgets cut. Mr Lenihan will also move to bring lower paid workers into the tax net.

At the top end Taoiseach Brian Cowen, higher paid public servants, hospital consultants and cabinet ministers will all suffer pay cuts of up to 20%.

This will follow the recommendations of the review group which looked at pay levels at the higher end of the civil service and result in €300m in savings.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said pay cuts in the public sector pay and pensions will be “tiered”.

He said all savings had to be structural. But Mr Martin said the Government was conscious the pension levy had already had a substantial impact on salaries so savings would have to come from other areas as well.

“We believe this budget has to be about trimming expenditure across programmes, across public pay and the welfare bill.”

The social welfare budget will increase next year because of greater demand on dole payments.

However, child benefit will be cut by €16. Social welfare, excluding the state pension, will fall by 4% with payments to young unemployed people to be cut even more.

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