Public sector strike to limit operation of Oireachtas

Fri, Nov 20, 2009, 00:00

THE SEANAD will not sit next Tuesday and the operation of the Dáil will be curtailed as a result of the national strike by civil and public servants in protest at Government proposals to cut pay.

It is also expected that courts around the country will not operate while in the State’s prisons, inmates are likely to be locked in their cells for two one-hour periods in the morning and in the afternoon as prison officers take part in the industrial action.

Pickets are to be placed on virtually all Government offices as well as at hospitals and schools as part of the strike. Pickets will also be placed on Leinster House.

As part of the restricted operation of the Dáil, there will be no adjournment debates on Tuesday.

The public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is also expected to announce details of the nature of a second wave of industrial action on Tuesday. This could involve further strikes either nationwide or on a rolling basis involving certain sectors.

The possibility of work-to-rules has also been discussed, but no final decision has been taken. Sources said the possibility of further strike action on December 9th, the day of the budget, has been considered but the general view was it should not be impeded.

The committee was told yesterday there had been “zero progress” in contacts with the Government on an alternative approach to generate €1.3 billion in savings without cutting pay. It also heard a promised Government document on the contribution made to date by public servants as well as its vision for the size and scale of the public service in the years ahead – considered crucial by the unions had not yet materialised.

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said she did not believe the “withdrawal of labour will be constructive or add in any way to discussions that are currently ongoing between Government, employers and public service unions”.

However, the Opposition accused the Government of “throwing in the towel” and doing nothing to prevent the strike. Sinn Féin said it would not pass the pickets on Leinster House.

Separately it emerged that the Defence Forces could be called in during the strike. Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea told the Dáil: “I do not immediately see a role for the Army next Tuesday, but we have looked at that.Arrangements are in place whereby the Army can be called upon if needed.’’

The HSE will today announce the scaling back of health services in the early part of next week. It is expected that from Monday, all elective admissions will cease.

Meanwhile, in an agreement with the HSE, the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) and Siptu have indicated that a number of critical care areas and national specialities will be exempt from the strike. These include: intensive care; coronary care; neo-natal special care; delivery rooms in maternity units; burns units, radiotherapy and chemotherapy units and neuro-surgery departments. It is understood the nursing unions maintained that the basis of nursing care in such areas meant it could not be reduced.

Impact, Siptu and the INO have also excluded their members from strike action in the voluntary intellectual disability services.

In areas such as theatres; recovery units; dialysis units; transplantation units; acute admission units; mental health units; sexual assault treatment units; drug treatment and detoxification units and neonatal infant metabolic screening units, unions said emergency cover would be provided.

Unions said cover for swine flu mass vaccination clinics would not be provided. They said these operated on a Monday to Friday basis. They said staffing for medical wards would be provided by the strike committee at a level deemed appropriate to the circumstances.