Solicitors and law clerks in the Irish Chief State Solicitor's Office have taken industrial action in the wake of a hard-hitting management consultant's report which found a “chronic shortage” of staff and resources.
The protest, which involves some 40 solicitors and a similar number of law clerks, has taken the form of a “work to rule”. The protest is sanctioned and backed by the civil service union Impact.
The solicitors are demanding that 15 extra solicitors, and the law clerks an additional seven clerks, be appointed immediately.
Both claim that work has increased by up to 300 per cent in recent years while staffing levels have remained the same.
They are refusing to use photocopiers or to reply to correspondence by hand, which had become necessary because the 30-strong typing pool was unable to meet the demands of the office.
There are also calls for extra resources and a general modernisation of the office.
According to the union's assistant general secretary David Hughes, some solicitors do not even have a dictaphone so a letter can take up to 10 days to get typed.
The protest follows a report published earlier this year which stated that the office, which provides legal support for Ireland's attorney general, Dermot Gleeson, is so “seriously under-resourced” that it could “cause embarrassment to the government”, “significant financial costs” to the state and lead to the mishandling of cases, undertaken on the state's behalf.
Irish prime minister John Bruton subsequently promised extra funding. The current protest is an attempt to force improvements. If there is no early response to the protest further action is threatened.
The next stage will be a refusal to take phone calls, use fax machines or provide documents for couriers, which, according to Hughes, will mean staff will be “practically incommunicado”.
After that, a series of one-day strikes is planned.