14
Apr
2005

Civil servants threaten action over mobile phone masts

I R I S H E X A M I N E R . C O M - 13 April 2005.

Civil servants threaten action over mobile phone masts

11 April 2005

By Donal Hickey

THE country’s 13,000 civil servants have threatened to take industrial action amid concerns about dangers posed by mobile phone masts on the roofs of buildings in which they work. Delegates at the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) conference, in Killarney, at the weekend were told that the Government showed ‘scant regard’ for their health.

“We’ve one minister who is worried about the ill effects of passive smoking in pubs while at the same time the Government is turning a blind eye to the absorption of microwaves in the air,” said Thelma Davey, of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Dublin branch.

She said a mast had been put on the CSO building in Rathmines, but staff were given no prior notice. “We’re not against the technology, but we want the safe implementation of it,” she told the conference.

She quoted a leading expert, Dr Dave Aldridge, who claimed radiation emissions from mobile phone masts in Ireland could be 10,000 times too high. She said the guidelines here referred to the adverse effects of heating on the body, but did not take into account the non-thermal effects within the body.

Such effects, she went on, could include an impaired immunity system, infections, viruses, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and cardiac disease. Ms Davey pointed out the Irish Doctors Environmental Association believed that between 1% and 5% of the population suffered from electro sensitivity, which was recognised as a medical condition in countries such as Sweden. Symptoms included nausea, vertigo, headaches and blurred vision. She also produced a letter sent last year by the Department of Health’s chief medical officer Dr Jim Kiely, to the Government saying uncertainties still existed about the potential impact of elector magnetic fields on human health. Ms Davey claimed the Government would earn €10 million a year for 10 years by allowing masts to be erected on buildings.

A number of motions calling on the CPSU executive to ensure safe workplaces, with calls for industrial action if necessary, were passed.

CPSU assistant general secretary Kevin Gaughran said the executive agreed with the sentiments voiced by delegates, but the union had gone a long way towards addressing the issues and would continue to work for safe and healthy workplaces.

He said a number of commitments had also been secured from the Government on the issue. Mr Gaughran said the Government had given a commitment that health and safety regulations regarding masts would be adhered to.

He also told conference that a number of international bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), had concluded there were no adverse effects from masts.

The conference heard calls for a change in regulations so that civil servants could openly express their views on certain political and community issues was made at the CPSU conference.

At present, the civil service code of standards and behaviour prevents them from engaging in public debate on political issues without prior permission from their department.

Education and Science branch delegate Sinead Gilmartin, proposing that the regulation be amended and said her branch did not want the Official Secrets Act to be abolished, or ignored, and civil servants should not disclose sensitive information regarding their work.

The motion was passed unanimously.

© Thomas Crosbie Media, 2005.

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Informant: Colette O'Connell




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