Today’s public sector strike has seen a significant show of support for the call by ICTU to oppose public sector pay cuts. The media has portrayed the strike as effectively shutting schools and hospitals. However the real impact has gone much further than that.
In Wexford Town government buildings in Anne St are closed. This means that the Revenue Commissioners, Probation Service, Department of Social and Family Affairs are shut. Round the corner on Crescent Quay, the offices of Wexford Borough Council are closed with a large picket in place. This means that those wishing to enquire about local authority housing cannot do so, fines can’t be paid, rent or rates cannot be collected and planning applications cannot be lodged or inspected. At the local authority depot in Whitemill Industrial Estate pickets since 7.30 AM have been in place. This means maintenance on houses won’t be carried out, streets won’t be swept nor roads repaired. Fro the first time in many years traffic can move down Wexford’s Main St as there’s no one to block it at 11AM.
At County Hall similar pickets ensure that bins won’t be collected, water bills cannot be paid nor any leaks in the system be fixed and Wexford is a county with regular problems in water supply. Environment, Planning and Enforcement are also closed meaning that any contravention of planning law can go unchecked today. At the Garda station the small Social Welfare office is picketed and while the garda are not on strike it was evident to me as I made my own way for picket duty at lunch time that gardaí were sympathetic to the strikers.
Yes, the schools were on strike and while second level teachers picketed their own schools the primary teachers picketed offices in the Cornmarket as did the NEPS employees. Co Wexford VEC was also shut with pickets at Ardcavan. Next door at the District Court and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, pickets are also on duty. The office of the Department of Agriculture, at Johnstown Castle, was also shut by pickets. Wexford General Hospital also had a picket at the front gate although it’s relocation off a side road made the protest less evident. So the effect has been significantly more than kids not getting taught. Grants are not being processed by the department and routine operations are deferred at WGH.
By and large the response from the public has been supportive although I did notice one man who rolled down the window of his silver luxury Mercedes to tell us we should be ashamed of ourselves as we picketed. He returned 10 minutes later to tell us that he paid €40K last year in tax and that he paid our wages and that we should go back to work. Now given that the tax was €40K I reckon he surely grossed €180K in annual income. Strangely he didn’t say what he was going to contribute to get the state out of this slump.
That said, I’ve got to mention a parent that sent in a box of chocolates to the early morning picket. Much appreciated. I hope the chocs last as it seems likely that we’ll be on picket duty sooner rather than later.