More than 100 hundred Roscommon County Council staff are staging a one-day strike in a dispute over flexi-leave that could have implications for all public service union members.
The CEO of Roscommon County Council, Eugene Cummins is defending changes he has made to flexi-leave schemes for staff at the local authority. He says he is complying with recommendations made by the Labour Court last year.
The Labour Court had ruled that Roscommon council staff should have the same rights as their colleagues through the local government sector. The staff’s trade union Fórsa said no worker had been approved for flexi-leave in the past year.
Fórsa said the council’s failure to allow workers take additional time off is anti-family and in breach of binding Labour Court recommendations issued last year.
The union says that today’s strike, which will affect all council services, is the first in an ongoing campaign on one-day strikes, set to take place every Thursday and Tuesday until management implements the Labour Court recommendations.
Fórsa official Padraig Mulligan said,"No other local authority in Ireland has attacked working parents - and particularly working mothers - in this way." He said it is "unprecedented" within the public service, and "it hits lower-paid women hardest as many of them depend on the flexi-scheme to balance work and caring responsibilities."
Mr Cummins told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that flexi-leave must be approved by a line manager based on the council's business and operational plans so that continuity of business can be maintained.
The council said the union is seeking to have an additional 13 flexible days leave per year, resulting in some staff having the potential to avail of in excess of 50 days leave per annum.
The widely available flexible working scheme allows staff to accumulate an extra day a month - up to 13 days per year - by working additional hours during their normal week.
Mr Cummins pointed out that at present the staff can decide when to work the extra hours rather than when they are needed. “They took it at will. It has to be managed, approved and should be generated when it is needed.
Today’s strike has national implications for thousands of public service workers in Government and local authorities.
Mr Cummins explained that he conducted a review in 2016 that involved extensive analysis. This was the first time the flexi-time process had been analysed in 20 years.
“No one has anything to worry about if the hours are generated in the way they are meant to be generated,” he said.