25 March 2010 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

Fire Service to strike

THE Fire Service across the 26 Counties has announced an all-out strike from 24 April, after an overwhelming vote by its 1,400 full-time firefighters and paramedics.
The strike is over the rundown of staff numbers, training and pay inequality.
SIPTU firefighters’ representative John Kidd points out that Dublin Fire Brigade lost 108 officers last year but only got 30 officers in their place, more than two thirds down. Many of those who left did so because of deteriorating conditions.  More than 50 of his colleagues in the emergency service, he said, depend on welfare income support to pay their everyday bills.
If nothing is done, he fears that Irish firefighters will leave for better prospects abroad, in places like New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
“We have the problem that the fire service has a 17-year income scale and a lot of members bought homes at the height of the Celtic Tiger.
“This is worse than the 1980s. It’s horrendous and I’m getting depressed about it at this stage.
“Some of our members are getting €500 a week and paying back €1,650 a month in mortgage repayments, meaning they have €350 to live on for the month.
“Here we are in a position where our workers are working week to week and our payments are being missed. It’s disgraceful.”

Firefighters trained in Ireland, by the Irish taxpayer and who want to serve the Irish taxpayer simply cannot afford to live in Ireland, he said.
“These young kids that are highly skilled are being poached by countries like New Zealand, Australia and Canada, countries where you can buy a home for two-and-a-half times your income and not 10 times your income like it was here.
“It takes two years to train our workers as paramedics and other countries are benefitting from it.
“These young people are being worked to death and they’re not getting what they deserve.”
“Basically, there is no future for these young firefighters in Ireland.”
He pointed out that fire service staff put their lives on the line for their community every day they go to work but are not getting fair treatment from employers.
“Our workers get treated like dirt but they are still the hardest-working in the world, as far as I’m concerned.
“We operate 12 ambulances in Dublin and they deal with on average 8,000 cases a year each. In America, if an ambulance deals with more than 5,000 cases, an enforcement order is put in place.”
John Kidd has emphasised that the union is open to any talks seriously aimed at resolving the issues and avoiding strike action.


Passport Office union moves to help travellers

THE Civil and Public Services Union is making new moves to ease the backlog at the Passport Office in Dublin by raising the priority of applications with immediate travel needs alongside those involving bereavement and illness.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Workers’ Rights spokesperson Martin Ferris has called on the government to engage constructively with the CPSU.
He said the government wanted the public to lay the blame for this crisis at the door of low-paid workers in the Passport Office rather than with the economic policies the government is pursuing and which pre-empted the work-to-rule.

He said the public could not be denied their right to essential services because of the government’s failure to fix the economy fairly and added:
“This government has followed a strategy of pitting private worker against public, and now the public against state workers, because it serves as a distraction to its failure to address a deepening economic crisis.”


Britvic drinks jobs down the drain

LEADING soft drinks firm Britvic is to sack 52 workers in east Belfast and Omagh, County Tyrone, after losing a big distribution contract with drinks giant C&C.
Britvic used to be C&C Soft Drinks.
Britivic boasts on its website that its brand portfolio includes Ballygowan, 7 Up, Club, Mi Wadi, Robinson and Pepsi, many of them holding number 1 or 2 spots in their market sectors. Nevertheless, Britvic bosses are giving
Britvic had employed 139 people in east Belfast and 17 in Omagh.
The Omagh jobs losses comes the week after Tyrone Crystal crashed, leaving 31 people unemployed.


Aer Lingus cabin crews vote again

AER LINGUS cabin crews have agreed to reballot on company cost-cutting plans after clarifications were given to their union, IMPACT.
All the other unions at Aer Lingus had accepted the €97 million restructuring bid but cabin crews rejected it. It included up to 600 voluntary redundancies, pay cuts of 10% and a three-year pay freeze.
After management threatened to sack all 1,200 cabin crew and then pick and choose who they wanted to rehire on vastly inferior rates of pay and poorer conditions, with 230 staff let go permanently with minimum redundancy terms, the Labour Relations Commission intervened.
The LRC held separate talks with Aer Lingus bosses and IMPACT last Friday, making a reballot possible.
A result on the second ballot is expected this Friday.


Pickering’s Lifts won’t go to Labour Court

A DISPUTE with Pickering’s Lifts over unfair selection for redundancy is now in its sixth week.
The Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union official dispute began on 4 February after the company refused to attend the Labour Court to find a resolution.
The strike has left flats in Ballymun without lifts in the eight-storey blocks and one tower block remaining.
Fourteen workers are suffering financial hardship but the inconvenience for 180 families living in the flats is now at a critical stage with 24 out of the 32 lifts completely broken down, the union says. Unfortunately, the emergency free breakdown service union members provided in a previous dispute (in 2002) has not been possible because Pickering’s bosses have confiscated workers’ company vans and the company mobile phones have been switched off.
Despite pressure from Dublin City Council, the company has refused to attend the Labour Court, even though the TEEU has agreed in advance to be bound by whatever decision the Labour Court may make.
A union rep told An Phoblacht:
“It is ironic that Pickering’s biggest and most lucrative customer, Dublin City Council, an arm of the state, is good enough for Pickering’s, but the Labour Court, another arm of the state, can be given the two fingers.”
The union has called on Pickering’s to stop stonewalling and to attend the Labour Court.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1