Strike closes South Dublin County Council

Staff at County Hall in Tallaght were among 600 IMPACT members on strike in South Dublin County Council today. Photo: Conor Healy
Staff at County Hall in Tallaght were among 600 IMPACT members on strike in South Dublin County Council today. Photo: Conor Healy

 600 IMPACT members in South Dublin County Council took strike action today (Tuesday) in a dispute over the unilateral imposition of pay cuts. A second strike is set for Thursday (26th June).

The action saw the closure of civic offices in Tallaght and Clondalkin, along with seven libraries in the council area. The public was unable to make payments or raise queries over water services, housing, roads, economic development, traffic and other local authority services. IMPACT members in depots providing water, drainage and other services only responded to emergency call-outs.

The strike followed almost four weeks of more limited industrial action, which was provoked when council management cut the pay of 13 of its staff and revealed plans to do the same to another 150 workers. The staff concerned 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.

IMPACT official Peter Nolan said the unilateral pay cuts were a breach of the Haddington Road agreement and said industrial action had been escalated because of management’s continued refusal to deal with the situation through proper procedures. He said staff had received huge support from councillors at the first meeting of the new council.

“We regret the inconvenience that this has caused, but the council provoked this strike by unilaterally imposing pay cuts and stepping outside the kind of procedures that have helped deliver massive change and productivity gains – without any industrial action – over the last four years. No other local authority or public service employer has taken the approach that South Dublin council management has taken.

“IMPACT has repeatedly said we’re willing to deal with the issue through established procedures. We just want a fair process. Council staff have already experienced substantial pay cuts – averaging 14% – imposed on them in 2009 and 2010. Some of them – those earning over €65,000 a year – experienced a further pay cut in 2013. This is on top of the increased taxes and charges experienced by workers across the economy,” he said.

Staff in the council have cooperated with far-reaching productivity measures in recent years, including increased working time, reduced sickness leave, changes to annual leave, and cooperation with many other reform measures – as well as maintaining the range and quality of services despite a 25% cut in staff numbers since 2008.

In recent weeks, more limited industrial has included a refusal to staff public counters or phone lines between 12.30pm and 2.30pm, the withdrawal of cooperation with evening meetings, an overtime ban, and a refusal to carry out duties at a higher grade.

AUDIO: IMPACT national secretary Peter Nolan speaks about the dispute on RTE’s Morning Ireland (via RTE)