Watch: Dozens of firefighters protest Cork City Council meeting over pay dispute

Update 5.30pm: Almost 60 firefighters are protesting outside Cork City Hall this evening over a pay dispute.

Members of the Cork City Fire Brigade are protesting in full firefighting gear outside tonight’s city council meeting to highlight how they are still waiting for money linked to restoration payments under the terms of the 2015 Landsdowne Road Agreement.

It is understood the payments could be worth up to €600 to each individual firefighter.

Members of the fire brigade provided letters to councillors as they entered the meeting, highlighting the details of the dispute.

Digital Desk

Earlier: Cork firefighters plan march on City Hall in pay restoration dispute

By Eoin English

Firefighters in Cork city are planning to march on City Hall this evening and they are poised to ballot for possible strike in a dispute over back-money linked to pay restoration.

Members of the 140-strong Cork City Fire Brigade will protest in full firefighting gear outside tonight’s city council meeting to highlight how they are still waiting for money linked to restoration payments under the terms of the 2015 Landsdowne Road Agreement.

It is understood the payments could be worth up to €600 to each individual firefighter. SIPTU, which represents the firefighters, was not available for comment yesterday.

But a spokesperson for the firefighters said the members of all the other full-time fire brigades in the country have received their pay restoration increments in full.

He blamed the escalation of the dispute on City Hall’s refusal to apply pay adjustments which were provided for in the extension of the Public Sector Stability Agreement 2018-2020 - the Lansdowne Rd Agreement.

The Government cut public pay through emergency FEMPI legislation introduced during the economic crash but negotiated pay restoration through the 2015 Landsdowne Road deal.

The agreement provided for the consequential increase of €500 in the rate of rent allowance and associated salary scale consolidations for firefighters, and these adjustments should have been applied in July 2017 and January 2018 respectively.

But the payments were withheld nationally, with the exception of Dublin Fire Brigade, triggering unofficial work-to-rule action last April in the affected full-time brigades.

This led to a written commitment from the Local Government Management Agency, that the adjustments would be paid, nationally and in full, within eight weeks.

The spokesman for the Cork firefighters said they also received a written commitment from City Hall that they would be paid in full within eight weeks.

But the back money still hasn't been paid.

The spokesman said: "All of those agreements have now been breached. Every full-time firefighter in the country has had these adjustments applied in full to their wages except those working for Cork City Fire Brigade."

The firefighters have now written to all 31 city councillors warning them that they are serving notice of their intention to ballot for industrial or strike action.

In a statement yesterday, the city council said the firefighters have embarked on unofficial industrial action since last Monday which involves them not undertaking several duties including entering incident calls on the council's computerised incident recording system; undertaking drills and training, and limiting overtime crewing.

“These actions are a complete breach of the Public Service Agreements and established industrial relations procedures and practices,” it said.

“They are a follow-on from previous actions which again included non-entering of incident calls on the incident recording system.

“The city council has paid its firefighters all increases due under the Public Service Agreements.

“Backmonies were due in relation to these increases but the council is precluded from paying these backmonies until the firefighters comply in full with the terms of the Public Service Agreements.

“The current unofficial actions of members of Cork City Fire Service are unwarranted and regrettable.

“The city council remains as always available to meet with official trade union representatives with the objective of bringing these unofficial actions to a timely and constructive conclusion.”

The spokesman for the firefighters said its members are engaged in unofficial industrial action because they are frustrated that two written agreements have been reneged upon.

And he said a compromise they tabled on Friday was rejected by City Hall.

This weekend was one of the busiest of the year for members of Cork City Fire Brigade as the city marked St John’s Eve - the traditional bonfire night.

The brigade’s green watch turned out to almost 80 999 calls between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning - almost eight times the amount of calls it would deal with in a normal 24-hour period - almost 50 of which were to illegal bonfires.

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