Passport office staff threaten strike

CIVIL servants at the Dublin Passport Office will strike if the Government carries out a threat to dock the pay of those involved in industrial action.

Speaking in Brussels Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin last night raised the heat in an already fraught dispute, warning his department will instigate disciplinary procedures against those who fail to carry out “core duties”. Referring to a letter he said had been sent to workers and the CPSU union, Mr Martin said: “Staff that refuse to carry out the duty for their grade, including the duty they were rostered for, will not be paid for the period.”

CPSU general secretary Blair Horan, whose members have undertaken ‘work to rule’ action at the passport office for the last seven weeks, said: “If you don’t pay people, people will strike, there is no doubt about that.”

He added that CPSU members had already endorsed taking strike action in such circumstances.

In a move that will increase trade union concerns, Mr Martin also said the dispute was leading to calls for the passport office’s work to be outsourced.

The war of words came after a dramatic day at the main passport office, when it confirmed there was a 40,000 application backlog.

This has seen the average delivery time double to 20 working days in non-emergency cases.

From early morning scores of people, many irate and pleading an immediate need for a passport, gathered outside the Molesworth Street office.

By late evening at least one woman was refusing to leave the office until issued with a passport.

Earlier, the one operating passport counter was briefly closed due to the level of anger being displayed towards staff.

After a meeting of the office’s industrial action committee workers agreed to work with management to overcome the backlog.

However, CPSU deputy general secretary Eoin Ronayne said he believed two passport issuing machines were now broken leaving only one functioning.

“Even if we went back to working 100% and putting loads and loads of overtime into this problem, it is not going to be sorted quickly,” he said.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore urged an end to the action, while Fine Gael’s Billy Timmins said chaos in issuing passports meant people’s constitutional right to travel was being infringed.

Meanwhile, talks between government representatives and public sector unions continued at the Labour Relations Commission in a bid to settle the wider pay dispute.

The talks are expected to extend into the weekend, with the CPSU annual conference taking place on Friday and Saturday.

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