Frontline workers express anger at cuts
Delegates of the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance arrive at the rally in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght last night. photograph: bryan obrien
The National Basketball Arena in Tallaght saw a virtually unprecedented outburst of anger from thousands of frontline public service workers at the prospect of further cuts in their earnings.
The 2,500 seats in the auditorium were occupied in full, while about 1,000 or more other gardaí, general nurses, psychiatric nurses, prison officers, paramedics and fire service personnel stood in the aisles and doorways.
The message from last night’s rally organised by the 24/7 Alliance was clear. Its members would accept no further pay cuts as proposed by the Government as part of an extension to the Croke Park agreement.
However, the anger of those present was not confined to the Government.
There was strong criticism of the leaders of the trade union movement who are currently engaged with public service management on the proposed new deal.
Urged to act
The general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran urged those present to act on the energy flowing from the meeting and to begin contacting TDs and Senators when they got home last night.
He said the message should be that if their local politicians wanted to be elected again they must support the campaign against the frontline pay cuts.
The general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, John Clinton, told the meeting that public representatives must realise “there will be trouble ahead if an equitable solution is not found”.
PJ Stone of the Garda Representative Association said that the Taoiseach had threatened to introduce legislation to force through a pay cut if there was no agreement to secure its proposed €1 billion reduction in the pay and pensions bill.
He said his members were threatened every day but never flinched, and that said men and women in the frontline services would continue to do their jobs, but not for the measly wage that management proposed.
The meeting was given details of a letter sent by the 24/7 Alliance to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin yesterday, which said there was no prospect of its constituent organisations concluding an agreement while the current agenda remained on the table. The meeting also heard warnings of possible industrial action.
The president of the Garda Representative Association, John Parker, confirmed his organisation would commence low-level actions such as not using their personal equipment for official duties. He warned this action could be increased incrementally.
“The options are vast, including the full nuclear option.”
“If you do not want to pay us for Saturday night and cut our allowances, we will not be working on Saturday night,” he said to tremendous applause.
John Kidd of the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association said that if the Government wanted to test the resolve of his members, there would be no emergency cover provided by the fire service in any dispute.