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LOCAL AUTHORITY STAFF IGNORE PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVES

Maria PEPPER

A WEXFORD councillor who can't do constituency work because angry public service staff are refusing to deal with his queries, says he is now being paid €28,000 a year to do nothing.

Local authority staff in Wexford are ignoring queries from councillors, TDs and Senators as part of an escalating union protest over 14% pay cuts.

'I'm in the happy position of getting €28,000 a year for doing nothing,' said Independent Councillor Padge Reck (pictured) who critized the IMPACT union for the action.

The Wexford branch of the union wrote a letter to all councillors last week, accusing them of not supporting their campaign and promising revenge in future elections.

Public representatives were told 'not to make representations on behalf of constituents to IMPACT members, as refusal may offend'. Meanwhile, Wexford travel agencies have been receiving anxious calls from customers who have booked holidays but need to renew passports, as industrial action by staff in the Passport Office in Dublin, leads to huge queues and a massive backlog of applications. A WEXFORD COUNCILLOR says he is now being paid €28,000 year to do nothing as local authority staff refuse to answer queries from all public representatives as part of a union protest over pay cuts.

Council staff were previously ignoring requests for assistance from Government party representatives but extended the action to all councillors, T.D.'s and senators last week.

'I'm in the happy position of getting €28,000 a year for doing nothing. It's the public who are suffering, not us. That is my concern,' said Cllr. Padge Reck, an Independent member of Wexford County and Borough Councils.

Mr. Bob Cowman, the Wexford branch chairman of IMPACT, the union representing public service workers in local government and the HSE sent a letter to councillors last week, explaining the action and asking them not to contact its members.

Cllr. Reck said he and other councillors were unhappy with the tone of the letter which accused them of not supporting IMPACT members in their battle against the Government.

'Public sector workers have taken enough and are sick of the way we are being treated. This is why we decided to take industrial action,' said Mr. Cowman.

'The Wexford branch of IMPACT has 800 members, many of whom have assisted you with various representations on behalf of constituents over the years.'

'However, we know how unsupportive and silent you have been in relation to the attack on the public sector lately.'

'We and our families will remember those who ignored us during future elections, both at local and national level,' the letter continued.

'May I suggest you do not make representations on behalf of constituents to impact members in any of the offices, as refusal may offend.'

Cllr. Reck said he was 'taken aback' by the tone and content of the letter. As a trade unionist, he believed that everyone had a right to fight for their wages.

'The letter is a bit strong particularly when I supported them,' he said.

Cllr. Reck said public representatives had many queries that were urgent, especially in relation to planning and housing, and the IMPACT action was causing hardship for the public.

Shay Clinton, Assistant General Secretary of IMPACT in the South East Region said it was a blanket letter that was sent out to public representatives as part of a national action.

He accepted that it was received by some councillors who supported the union's campaign.

'There has been much stronger lobbying in other parts of the country,' he said.

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