Civil servants to ballot on strike over unpaid working hours

CPSU wants added hours removed by June and ‘real pay rises’ in talks with Government

 Eoin Ronayne, general secretary of the Civil Public & Services Union: lower-paid clerical staff remained up to €2,000 a year out of pocket on foot of cuts imposed following the economic crash. Photograph: Eric Luke

Eoin Ronayne, general secretary of the Civil Public & Services Union: lower-paid clerical staff remained up to €2,000 a year out of pocket on foot of cuts imposed following the economic crash. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Lower-ranking civil servants are to ballot on strike action unless the Government removes the two hours added to the working week without extra pay during the recession. They want the hours removed by June.

Delegates at the annual conference of the Civil Public & Services Union (CPSU) in Killarney passed a motion calling for the ballot against the advice of their leadership which considered the move could tie its hands in forthcoming talks with the Government.

Tony Gallagher from the union’s Letterkenny branch objected to remitting the proposal to the union’s executive for consideration. He said the union should be prepared “to put its stall out and stand up for something at last after nine years, such as getting the hours back”.

Mandate

Mr Gallagher suggested that having a mandate for industrial action in its back pocket would strengthen the union’s position in the forthcoming talks with the Government on a successor to the Lansdowne Road agreement.

He said restoration of previous working hours was not a cost-increasing claim, as such.

The union’s assistant general secretary, Des Fagan, said the pragmatic way to deal with the issue was to allow the union’s negotiators to try to address the issue of hours, which the union identified as a priority, in the forthcoming talks.

Earlier the conference heard there “will be trouble” if lower-paid civil servants did not secure a reduction in working hours and “real pay rises” in the talks.

CPSU general secretary Eoin Ronayne said lower-paid clerical staff remained up to €2,000 a year out of pocket on foot of cuts imposed following the economic crash.

Pre-crash levels

He said the Lansdowne Road agreement had brought those earning less than €28,000 per annum back to pre-crash levels. However, he argued the bulk of the CPSU’s members were still significantly affected by the pay cuts and pension levy imposed up to nine years ago.

Mr Ronayne said those earning up to €38,000 would have to be lifted out of the austerity-era cuts by means of real increases in the talks on a successor to the Lansdowne Road deal which are expected to commence in May.

He said a new survey of union members had found one in 10 were dependant on some social welfare payments, such as family income supplement.

Where is the fairness, the equity and ultimately the morality in that?

Mr Ronayne maintained the survey also revealed great anger among CPSU members at the unpaid additional hours which they have been required to work under previous national agreements.

“The survey clearly indicated that full pay restoration for all our grades is expected from the talks and this is fully justifiable.”

Stroke of a pen

He said that with the stroke of a pen, the highest paid in the Civil Service, the secretaries general, had this last week paid themselves €4,500, a figure clerical officers could only dream of.

“Where is the fairness, the equity and ultimately the morality in that?”

CPSU president Ann McGee told the conference the Government should “pay up or face the consequences – consequences that include co-ordinated industrial action by all public service unions”.

She said the accelerated €1,000 pay increase which most public service staff received this week represented “only a downpayment” on full pay restoration.

The union’s deputy general secretary Derek Mullen said the new Public Service Pay Commission should not in its analysis use comparisons with private sector employments which had poor pay and conditions.

“Low levels of pay in the private sector are unacceptable and not an excuse to drag down public service wages.”

He said lower-paid civil servants would fight for better holiday arrangements to bring them up to a par with management grades.