Protesters resolute in opposition to new pay cuts
Members of the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance comprised of workers from five organisations have gathered in Tallaght tonight for a national rally to highlight their opposition to government plans to cut pay. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien/Irish Times
The National Basketball Arena in Tallaght saw a virtually unprecedented outburst of anger from thousands of frontline public service workers tonight at the prospect of further cuts in their earnings.
The 2,500 seats in the auditorium were occupied in full while around 1,000 or more other gardaí, general nurses, psychiatric nurses, prison officers, paramedics and fire service personnel stood in the aisles and doorways.
Their message of the 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.
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 from when they get home tonight.He said the message should be that if their local politicians ever wanted to be elected again they must support the campaign against the frontline pay cuts.
“We will never forget”, he said.
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 if an equitable solution was not reached.
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 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.
There was also strong criticism of union leaders who are currently involved in the Croke Park talks process with the Government.
Seamus Murphy, the deputy general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association said the Government was reneging on the existing Croke Park agreement – which ran until next year – with the complicity of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“In 1913 we had a lock out. In 2013, a century later we have a sell out by the movement that is supposed to protect us.”
Speaking earlier today the trade union representing lower-paid civil servants said anything that comes out of the current talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement that involves people having to endure additional costs will be a “no, no”.
Following talks with public service management this morning the general secretary of the Civil Public and Services Union Eoin Ronayne said it was very difficult to see how progress could be made that his members could live with. However he said an outcome was still too early to call.