Unions plan second day of strikes next week


PRESS CONFERENCE:A SECOND public service workers’ strike is set to take place on Thursday, December 3rd, if renewed talks fail to produce an alternative to compulsory redundancies and pay cuts, the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) announced yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference, committee chairman Peter McLoone said workers had demonstrated their feelings through the “State’s largest ever strike” in which he claimed well over 250,000 people had participated.

This showed leadership was coming directly from the workers who had “the resolve and the strength to resist the Government if it pursues an unfair and counterproductive course of further pay cuts”, he said.

Talks which resume this morning would see Ictu pressing for “a statement that reflects the contribution of public service workers of €2.45 billion”, he added.

According to Mr McLoone, Ictu would also be seeking to build on the document received from Government on Friday last on “transition” in the public service.

The unions would be seeking to define how transition is to be addressed, what timeframe was being set aside for it, and who is going to engage in the process.

Mr McLoone said talks would have to address whether an agreement could be found “on some temporary measures to cut pay costs in 2010”.

But he said the committee did not want to go into negotiations with the Government “saying you’ve had your strike and your bullets have all been shot”. The strike had not been “a one-day wonder, but hopefully December 3rd will not be necessary”.

Almost all the unions involved in yesterday’s strike have mandates from their members for further strike action. The exceptions are the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants and the Irish Federation of University Teachers which had balloted only for a one-day strike.

The public services committee said yesterday’s strike had seen disruption across health, local authorities, the Civil Service, and non-commercial, semi-State sectors, with all services affected except essential and emergency ones

Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses’ Organisation said there had also been strong support for the strike among care workers.

Tom Geraghty, general secretary of the Public Service Executive Union, said a one-hour stoppage by essential workers including prison workers yesterday showed their support.

He could not speak for their attitude to a further day of strikes on December 3rd, but he insisted unions were generally “geared up for further strike action if the Government failed to find a fair and workable alternative to pay cuts”.

Mr Geraghty, secretary of the public services committee, said “nobody wants strikes and we regret the disruption caused by today’s stoppage.

“But our unions have large mandates from members who believe that they must resist, or see the Government come back again and again to cut their incomes.”

Asked about what were described as five-mile tailbacks of cars crossing the Border to Newry yesterday, Mr McLoone said he had been involved in many queues in his time, but had never been interviewed by a motoring organisation as to who he was and what his job was.

It wasn’t sensible, he said, to infer that shoppers heading to the North were public sector workers taking advantage of a day off.

“I think that is an unfair presumption,” he said, adding there were far more serious concerns which should be addressed.