Siptu has informed Limerick City and County Council that it is to ballot 999/112 operators employed by the local authority, at the Munster Regional Communications Centre (MRCC), “for industrial action and strike action”.
MRCC operators, who work out of a building on grounds of the headquarters of the Limerick City and County Fire and Rescue Service, process an average of twenty-six thousand 999/112 calls per annum, mobilising 69 retained and full-time fire stations across Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, Kerry, Cork and Waterford.
Siptu said its members at the MRCC have not had a job evaluation in 23 years, despite changes to their work practices over this period. It claimed the council has failed to adequately engage with it over call for job evaluations.
Twenty-four people are employed at the MRCC, including 20 operators. A reliable source said safeguards to the public would be put in place in the event of industrial action.
When contacted for comment, Karan O’Loughlin, Siptu divisional organiser PAC Division said the union had informed MRCC members that a ballot for industrial action and strike action would take place at the MRCC on Monday, May 22nd, from 4pm-5pm, and on the following Tuesday and Wednesday May 23rd, 24th from 8am-10am.
“The ballot for industrial and strike action is being held in furtherance of our trade dispute to persuade your employer to undertake a job evaluation for the Siptu members employed at the MRCC” Ms O’Loughlin explained in a letter circulated to MRCC members.
999/112 operators at the MRCC dispatch firefighters to a variety of emergency scenarios including, fires, road traffic collisions, aircraft collisions, and other emergency call-outs.
Siptu representatives met with council executives on May 2nd, however no agreement was reached then.
Ms O’Loughlin informed the council that “technological advances, tougher transparency regimes and the higher levels of skill and responsibility” required for MRCC staff “demonstrate that a job evaluation is essential”.
The Siptu representative also argued that it is within the remit of the council to seek departmental funding should additional funding be required as a consequence of job evaluations for MRCC members.
When asked for a response, a Limerick City and County Council spokesperson stated the Labour Court has advised: “In all of the circumstances and having particular regard to the need to respect the parties’ own collective agreement as regards resolution of disputes relating to matters covered by their collective agreement, the Court recommends that the parties engage to agree how, having regard to the agreed dispute resolution mechanisms contained in that collective agreement, the claim of the Trade Union can most appropriately be engaged upon.”
The council spokesperson added: “We have sought to constructively engage with Siptu within the parameters of Building Momentum, the current public service agreement. We regret that Siptu have decided to ballot their members for industrial action given the industrial peace clauses of Building Momentum.”