Schools, social welfare offices, museums, libraries, county and town council offices all ground to a stop in the wind and rain last Tuesday as the public service workers in the county joined their colleagues across the country in a one day strike. Non essential services were not available to the people of Mayo for the day as the thousands of public service workers in the county voiced their anger at potential cut backs to their pay and conditions in the upcoming Budget.
From early in the morning the pickets were placed at the entrance to all public service buildings and depots.
County councillor and Mayor of Castlebar Town Council Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, told the Mayo Advertiser: “This was a protest about the pay and conditions of public service workers who do such a key job in keeping this country running. When you have a fire, or need an ambulance, when the roads need repairing or gritting after ice, when your children need education, or you need to go to the hospital because you are unwell, the people who help you and deal with you are the public service workers. How can this Government expect people to see their wages cut, then pay more taxes and then cut the numbers providing the service to the people and hope it stays up to scratch? It’s not possible.” Cllr Kilcoyne estimated the number of workers striking in Mayo on Tuesday to have been some 4,000.
Labour Party Castlebar town councillor Harry Barrett applauded the public sector workers who went on strike and blamed the Fianna Fáil led Government for letting the issue escalate to this stage. “Fianna Fáil has colluded in the belittling of public servants. For months, there has been a sustained campaign of ballyragging, abuse, and denigration targeted at the public sector. As though it were somehow the nurse in A&E in Mayo General who caused the exchequer deficit, or the rank and file Garda who caused the problems in the banks.” Cllr Barrett went on to say that the business in Castlebar and around the county would feel the pinch due to cuts in public sector workers’ pay.
“Businesses will soon feel the effects of the stripping down of public sector pay cheques as we approach Christmas. Any business person in Castlebar will tell you how important public sector workers are to their businesses.”
SIPTU organiser in Mayo Colm Keaveney told the Mayo Advertiser: “We had between 1,200 and 1,400 union members out on strike across the county on Tuesday between the county council and the HSE. These were not all public service workers making huge amounts of money, 50 per cent of the public sector who work in Mayo earn less than €30,000 a year, they are not the Rody Molloys or the head of the HSE who are getting huge bonuses every year. They are the people who live and work in our towns and any cut to their wages will be have a serious effect on the business in the towns around the this county. They will have less money to spend and that’s going to hurt businesses in the long run.”
Ballina based Minister of State with responsibility for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary urged all parties involved to thrash things out at the talks that are going on between the unions and Government at the moment. “The talks have started again between the unions and Government, all those involved should put everything they have into it to sort it out for the betterment of everyone. Strikes do no good to anybody, either the people on the picket who don’t want to be there or the people who are trying to use the services, these things have to be resolved by talking, and hopefully that will happen so we won’t see people out on the street again on December 3.”