Union plans escalation of protest

WITH 250,000 public sector workers now on a nationwide work-to-rule over the pay cuts announced in the December Budget, the union representing low-paid civil servants is to escalate its protest through more radical, unannounced action designed to cause greatest disruption to management.

Following a meeting of its senior executive yesterday, the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), which represents 13,000 workers, confirmed it has started balloting its members for strike action. That ballot will be complete by the end of the month. However, in the meantime, it said it will up the intensity of its existing action through a range of more intensive disruptive tactics.

Managers will not be informed when or in which part of the civil service members will act leaving them no time to put contingency plans in place. The union would not outline what form the enhanced protests would take. The CPSU has also put a moratorium on its members doing any other work than their own, a measure already in place for members of various other public service unions. The move came as Labour Relations Commission chairman Kieran Mulvey confirmed he will meet senior union leaders later this week to see what mediation he can offer in the ongoing dispute between unions and the Department of Finance over the fall-out from the pay cuts announced in the budget.

Mr Mulvey indicated the basis for a resolution of the dispute should be found using the template set by the Government and unions before pre-budget talks collapsed so acrimoniously.

He pointed out the sides had agreed nearly a billion euro in potential savings through a number of measures. Those measures included the transformation of the public service through, for example, longer working days in the health service.

“What worries me to some degree is that they [the proposals] never got a fair airing,” he said.

Yesterday, 70,000 members of SIPTU trade union became the latest to join the work-to-rule which is now affecting almost every service across the public sector.

The public is still barely feeling the effects of the dispute but union sources claim the pressure on the Government to maintain services without full co-operation is mounting and over the coming weeks cracks will start to appear.

Union leaders are still adamant they will not lift the protest unless the Government reverses the average 7% pay cuts imposed in the budget. However, while officials continue to rule out that possibility, sources are becoming more and more convinced that talks could take place between the sides within weeks, possibly with a view to shaping the outcome of the next budget in a way that would better suit both sides.

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