Sligo civil servants to strike over phone antennae

Chris Dooley,
Industry and Employment Correspondent

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Civil servants at the pension services office in Sligo have voted to go on strike over a plan to install three mobile-phone antennae on their office.

The action, by members of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), would cause severe disruption to some social welfare payments.

The office is the national centre for the maintenance and payment of old-age and widows' pensions.

It is also responsible for most one-parent family payments.

If the strike goes ahead new claimants and those whose circumstances alter, requiring them to submit new applications, will be among those affected.

Some 97 per cent of CPSU members, who comprise two-thirds of staff at the office, voted in favour of industrial action.

The union claims the Office of Public Works (OPW) has breached its own guidelines in allowing Vodafone to erect the antennae within 10m of a work station and 25m of a creche.

This was denied yesterday by the OPW.

About 450 civil servants work in the office on College Road, while some 50 children are placed in the on-site creche.

CPSU general officer Eoin Ronayne said there would be no strike in advance of the antennae being erected. However, if Vodafone proceeded with the installation an immediate walk-out by staff would be likely.

Conor McKinney, the union's Sligo branch representative, said the strike vote reflected the anger felt by members.

The union had met the Minister of State in charge of the OPW, Tom Parlon, and it expected him "to intervene without delay to stop this abuse of our members and their young children".

In a statement responding to the claims, the OPW said the antennae fully complied with all relevant regulations and guidelines.

"This installation is part of a nationwide roll-out of mobile phone infrastructure that utilises a number of public buildings identified as suitable, in addition to the current Garda stations that have had such equipment in operation since 1997."

As part of this roll-out a licence to install equipment on the Sligo building had been granted to Vodafone.

"Under the terms of the licence the operator is required to strictly comply with all relevant Health and Safety Acts, and will operate within current standards and EU regulations," the statement said.

Vodafone would also be required to adhere to the guidelines on exposure limits to emissions issued by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

The Department of Social and Family Affairs said it had been advised of the result of the ballot by the CPSU.

However, the department expected that if the antennae were erected then seven days' notice of any action would be served at that point.

Existing social welfare customers whose claims remained unchanged would not be affected by the strike.

© The Irish Times

Informant: Imelda, Cork.


I have now located an earlier newspaper article on how concerned Irish civil servants are about antennae being erected on their buildings. Will paste it in below.


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.


Source: http://omega.twoday.net/stories/626368/

Telecommunications' sly strategies for denouncing mast protestors


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