More than 4000 Irish civil servants and public sector employees took part in a rally outside Leinster House in Dublin (Ireland's parliament building) today, protesting against the controversial pensions levy the government is about to introduce.
The protest was organised by the Civil & Public Service Union (CPSU), which will announce the result of a ballot for industrial action within the next 24 hours.
If a majority of CPSU members support further action, it is expected that over 13,000 civil servants will hold a one-day strike on February 26th.
Members of the Garda [police] Representative Association (GRA) also joined the protest outside Leinster House (photo left).
Seeing policemen actively participating in such a protest (rather then accompany and police it) is quite a rarity.
But many Gardaí agree that the proposed pensions levy is unfair and that the burden of dealing with the current crisis and with the measures of economic recovery is not been spread equally across the community.
The protesters were met at the gates of Leinster House by Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore (left) and his deputy Joan Burton, who is also the party's spokesperson on Finance. Both pledged their support for the concerns of the civil servants.
Meanwhile the legislation to impose a public service pension levy was published this morning. It is to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow and next week, and is due to go to the Seanad on Thursday of next week.
The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2009 - as it is called in full - includes provisions allowing public bodies to reduce the professional fees paid by them to external service providers.
It also includes changes in the early childcare supplement and the Farm Waste Management Scheme, which were announced at the same time as the levy.
Looking at the bill's name alone one has to wonder if politicians will ever be able to put things straight and in plain English that everyone can understand. Why is it that most of our laws have odd and longwinded titles and are phrased in a way no-one speaks? Not even politicians talk like that...
On top of the whole Civil Service and public sector, the proposed levy will also apply to all TDs - including Ministers, Ministers of State and the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker) and Leas Ceann Comhairle (Deputy Speaker) of the Dáil - as well as to all Senators, the Attorney General and Members of the European Parliament.
However, due to the provisions of the Constitution, the President and the Judiciary cannot be included in the measure.
If passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas (Ireland's parliament), the levy will apply to all earnings of the people affected by it, including allowances and overtime, from March 1st. The legislation specifies that no extra pension benefit is conferred by the deduction.
In light of today's demonstration and the generally unfriendly reactions the proposal has created in a large portion of civil servants and public sector workers, it remains to be seen if the bill will actually become law in the form and way the government wants. It is a fact that no government could function without the Civil Service and the many areas of the public sector.
Maybe the recent talks of the Social Partners were broken off without an agreement a little bit too hastily. As long as Ireland's rich and super-rich, many of which caused the current crisis, do not contribute their fair share to the recovery programme (and are seen by everyone to do so), the Irish are not in the mood for ever more sacrifices from the ordinary people - in the public as well as the private sector - while selfish and arrogant millionaires keep enjoying the wealth they creamed off the nation over the past decade.
The Emerald Islander