Up to 70,000 members of the Siptu trade union are set to join in the industrial action being carried out by other public service unions in protest at the pay cuts introduced in the Dublin government’s budget.
Separately lower-paid civil servants, who are members of the Civil Public and Services Union, are expected to agree to step up their campaign of action when its strike committee meets today.
Yesterday trade union leaders signalled that they wanted to get back into talks with the coalition government to seek a deal that would cover both public pay policy, including the salary cuts announced in December, and the transformation programme for the public service which Ministers maintain is a priority.
Last week Tanaiste Mary Coughlan twice refused to rule out the possibility of further cuts in public service pay. She said nobody in government or in the opposition parties was in a position to say what adjustments were needed in the context of next year’s budget.
In December the Government rejected controversial proposals put forward by the trade union movement which would have seen staff take 12 days unpaid leave and co-operate with widespread reform plans in return for an agreement to maintain pay levels. Instead it opted to introduce across-the-board pay cuts for more than 300,000 public service staff.
Yesterday Peter McLoone, the general secretary of Impact and chairman of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said that a majority of union members wanted a negotiated solution to the dispute over pay.
The president of Siptu, Jack O’Connor, said 69,700 members of his union in the public service would be joining in the industrial action from today. He said that this action by members in the health, education, local authority and State agency sectors would include a ban on co-operation with change and a work-to-rule.
He said that the industrial action was “not designed to start a war but rather to leverage negotiations”. However, he said that some elements of the government appeared eager for confrontation.
So far the government has adopted a “softly-softly” approach to the industrial action undertaken by public service staff.
However, the Department of Finance has reportedly drawn up a draft memo setting out options for tackling labour unrest, including a ban on deductions of union subscriptions at source and the payment of staff who took time off work to attend union conferences if industrial action continued.
Yesterday it was reported that the government would suspend public service workers who refused to carry out duties.
Unions have warned of strikes if members were removed from the payroll as part of the current industrial action.