Passport staff to strike if pay docked

THE stakes have been significantly raised in the Government’s conflict with the public sector unions with passport workers ready to strike early next week if their pay is docked.

Last night the Civil and Public Sector Union (CPSU) general secretary Blair Horan said those seeking passports should not be fearful as a strike will only take place if a Department of Foreign Affairs threat to dock the wages of workers partaking in industrial action is carried out.

Mr Horan said: “We had a threat from Department of Foreign Affairs management to the pay of our people, on the one hand we responded to that threat in a very clear fashion that we won’t tolerate it and on the other hand we took steps to alleviate pressure on the passport office.” He added; “We do not want to talk about strikes as the situation should not be made worse. But management needn’t think they can threaten our people with pay cuts and get away with it.”

On Tuesday, the CPSU offered to ‘amend’ their seven-week long industrial action at passport offices to allow those with imminent travel plans to apply for emergency passports.

The union work-to-rule campaign has seen the backlog for passport applications mount to nearly 50,000 and has resulted in large daily queues forming outside the Dublin passport office.

However, within hours of the union’s offer Foreign Affairs Minster Micheál Martin said that he wanted a complete suspension of industrial action.

It is believed the union also served strike notice on Tuesday with an agreement it would not be revealed to the media. According to negotiators the situation at the Dublin passport office is impacting on trust between union and Government sides at the public sector pay and reform talks being held at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).

Adding to this, LRC chief executive Kieran Mulvey yesterday said the revelation that some employees at the nationalised Anglo Irish Bank are to receive pay rises has caused further difficulties for the negotiations.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs secretary general David Cooney had said calls to outsource the work of the passport office to private companies had been considered but that involved security issues.

Some Belfast-based low- cost carriers are no longer requesting passports for travel to Britain but approaches to Ryanair to follow suit had been rebuffed.

The CPSU annual conference starts today in Galway.

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