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Irish public workers to vote on industrial action

world Updated: Feb 10, 2009 10:11 IST
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A trade union representing clerical workers in Ireland's public sector will ask its 13,000 members to vote on a campaign of industrial action against government plans for a pension levy and a pay freeze.

"We will ballot over this week on a campaign of protest up to and including industrial action," Deputy General Secretary of the Civil Public & Services Union (CPSU) Eoin Ronayne told Reuters on Monday.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen is under pressure to tackle buckling public finances after a collapse in the property market and the global economic crisis blew a hole in tax revenues.

Cowen angered the country's 350,000 plus public employees last week when he pressed ahead with plans to squeeze public sector pay to help shave 2 billion euros ($2.60 billion) off a ballooning budget deficit.

Even with 2 billion euros in spending cuts this year, Ireland's budget deficit will be 9.5 percent of GDP this year, more than three times the European Union's 3 percent limit.

Ronayne said the nature of the industrial action, which could be strikes, work stoppages or work-to-rule, would be decided by the CPSU's executive later on Monday.

Cowan's decision to go ahead with the cuts triggered a breakdown in the so-called "social partnership" between government, unions and employers which has been deciding national wage agreements by consensus since the late 1980s and was an important contributor to the success of the "Celtic Tiger" economy.

Now the boom times are gone and unemployment claimant numbers are soaring to record highs putting further pressure on the public finances.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, an umbrella body for labour organisations, will meet on Wednesday to discuss a coordinated response to the pension levy.

The Irish Nurses Organisation, which has 40,000 members, is meeting on Monday to decide what action to recommend.