Cowen tells unions of deep disappointment over strike


TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has told trade union leaders of his “deep disappointment” at the planned national strike in the public service next Tuesday.

At a meeting last night with representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), the Taoiseach warned that the industrial action had the potential “to cause very serious disruption and inconvenience, as well as economic loss across the community”.

Mr Cowen also urged the trade unions to ensure that arrangements for appropriate and responsible emergency cover be put in place for the strike.

In a statement last night, the Government said that “the Taoiseach conveyed formally his deep disappointment that strike action in the public service is taking place next Tuesday especially as efforts to find a basis of agreement about managing the public service pay cost in this unprecedented economic crisis are continuing”.

Up to 300,000 staff in the public service are scheduled to take part in the strike in protest at Government proposals to cut pay.

The strike will close schools and most public offices and severely curtail hospital services.

The Department of Finance said yesterday that court sittings would be cancelled except in cases of emergency. The majority of Civil Service and local authority staff would be engaging in the day of industrial action, it said.

Cover in the Civil Service would be provided only in areas such as Met Éireann and the Coast Guard where otherwise there would be a potential risk to life, the department added.

In the local authority area, the department said, “minimum emergency/essential services cover will be provided in respect of fire services and water services”.

The Government statement last night said that the Ictu representatives had “made it clear that there is no possibility of averting next Tuesday’s strike”.

The Government last night also published its long-awaited document setting out its vision for the size and scale of the public service in the years ahead.

Trade unions have said that this document would form a key element in the talks on a possible alternative plan for securing €1.3 billion in savings on the public sector pay bill without cutting pay levels.

A spokesman for the public services committee of Ictu said that the document would be considered by union leaders on Monday.

However, he said that it did not contain guarantees sought by the unions on jobs, pensions and compulsory redundancies as a basis for calling off the strike.