Strikes set to halt College

“Incompetent, dishonest, feckers”. These are the words of one Trinity lecturer in response to government proposals to reduce public sector pay. The professor, who wishes to remain unnamed, will be among the numerous Trinity lecturers, security staff, librarians and shop assistants who plan to take part in a nationwide public sector strike next week.

Proposed by public sector unions, the 24-hour nationwide boycott will cause normal services at Trinity College to come to a grinding halt as public sector staff across the board stage protests in Dublin City. The strike is being held in protest against measures to reduce government-funded salaries across Ireland.

“I want to bomb the Dail, then I’d go in with a potato masher to make sure Brian Cowen was dead”, is just one reaction among Trinity staff to the proposed salary reductions. Although made in jest, the anger of this Security Staff member reflects the sentiment of opposition felt among College staff and teacher unions.

“I don’t understand why people are so outraged”, says one lecturer in an exclusive to Trinity News. “They vote in the same incompetent, dishonest feckers time and time again”. Needless to say, the aforementioned professor will not be attending work this coming Tuesday.

If the proposals take effect, almost all 2,676 of Trinity’s employees will be affected. It is understood the proposed pay cuts will save the government €300 million in a full year, and are part of a wider initiative to reduce the public sector pay bill by €1.3 billion before 2010. Among the Government’s measures to cut public sector costs include an increase in University registration fees and an embargo on the recruitment and promotion of all University staff.

A librarian speaking on behalf of the library staff says they feel “unfairly punished” as a result of government policy. “Almost all library staff will be gone as a result of the hiring freeze, staff have already decreased by 30 members this year, and we’re unable to employ any more.” It is understood that most library security staff and library staff members will be on Strike this Tuesday.

During the course of the strike, the University will have to employ a skeleton staff willing to cross the picket line in order to keep the University open. Trinity Staff Relations Manager, Ken O’Doherty says “College will have in place procedures to maintain essential services and to respond to any emergencies that may occur during the course of the strike. Once the details of the proposed action become known Heads and Managers in each area will give due consideration to the number of staff available for duty. This is in order to ensure that appropriate levels of supervision are in place across campus.” O’Doherty states his main priority is “to adequately protect the health and safety of students and others on campus”.

The proposed salary reductions will affect those receiving some of the lowest incomes in the public sector, causing one member of the canteen staff to say, “These cutbacks should have come from above. I will definitely be out on the streets on 24 November.” A Trinity Administrative employee describes how she has been feeling the pinch, “It’s hard because sometimes I feel as though I may as well be on the dole- I take home €200 less a week because of  this recession. I’m lucky I don’t have kids!”

Mike Jennings, General Secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers, spoke out recently about the proposed pay cuts, describing them as “nothing more than an ill-thought out receipe for social division”. Speaking on behalf of the four Teacher Unions in Ireland, Jennings says, “We are dismayed that, all of a sudden, the Government seems to have come to the belief that cutting the pay of teachers and other public servants is an easy and readily available option.”

“We want to send a crystal clear message to An Taoiseach and his Ministers that we will not accept the scape-goating of our members to pay for a financial crisis which we did not cause”, says Mr. Jennings, who describes the proposed cuts as “totally unacceptable”. When asked about the Unions’ response to the proposed measures, Jennings warns they “will be resisted”.