Council pay cuts prompt protest

by Ian Begley
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Council staff mounted a protest at the first meeting of the newly-elected South Dublin County Council (SDCC) and are now proposing to withdraw core duties and put full day work stoppages in place from June 16.
On June 6, the workers entered their second week of industrial action after council management unilaterally cut the pay of 13 of its staff and revealed plans to do the same to another 150 workers.
Staff took annual leave in order to attend the protest.
Members of the trade union IMPACT said they will meet council management next week to consider their next steps, including a possible escalation of the action.
The union says strike action is possible if council management continues to refuse to negotiate on the issue.
IMPACT official Angela Kirk, who joined the protest, said the union had received a “very encouraging” response after it wrote to councillors seeking their support.
“A number of councillors have already contacted us and I’m confident that the staff will have the support of the majority of elected members,” she said.
In her letter to councillors, Kirk said the industrial action was happening because council management had refused to deal with the situation through negotiations. The letter said: “The 163 staff earmarked for further pay cuts have been carrying out extra work with additional responsibilities – some of them for as long as 12 years. Now the council says they must continue to do this work, but it is taking away the extra payment – called an ‘acting payment’ – that goes with it.”
The council responded to IMPACT’s statement, saying: “IMPACT has informed the management of SDCC that they propose escalating the industrial action to include withdrawal of core duties and full day work stoppages from June 16.
“This is a clear breach of the Haddington Road Agreement. Withdrawal from core duties and participation in work stoppages will be dealt with in the appropriate manner.
“The origins of the dispute are that 10 staff at senior management level had acting or project allowances removed because the justification for these temporary allowances no longer existed.
“This is part of a national workforce planning exercise being carried out within all local authorities including South Dublin aimed at matching staff requirements and skills with current needs.
“This in turn will lead to the filling of vacancies through internal competition where these are justified and necessary and the consequent removal of ad hoc acting arrangements. All elements of the plan will ultimately require the approval of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government which sanctions staffing levels within the sector. The initial element of the plan involving senior management has been approved by the department and is in the process of implementation.
“Management are again referring the matter to the Labour Relations Commission in an effort to enter into meaningful negotiations, which the union to date have refused,” said the spokesperson.
Independent Cllr Paul Gogarty said that he supports the council workers in their efforts to stop pay cuts, saying: “I believe the council staff would be very hard done by if their wages are reduced, especially if they’re taking on additional duties. I think there are alternative ways to save… money within the council and I don’t think cutting the payment of staff workers should be one of them.”

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