Staff at the 999 Emergency Call Answering Centre in Navan staged a 12-hour work stoppage today, which was set to run until 8pm.

The Communications Workers' Union has said that further industrial action at 999 Emergency Call Answering Centres is not ruled out - but that staff will give employers BT Ireland and Conduit Global and opportunity to "do the right thing".

Members of the CWU are in dispute with the operator, BT Ireland, over pay. They want a living wage of at least €11.50 per hour.

They are also calling for changes to on-call procedures and recognition of their union.

CWU organiser Ian McArdle said that they expect up to 15 of the 20 operators based at the Navan 999 Emergency Call Answering Service will be picketing today in their 12-hour strike over pay and union recognition.

Asked whether further industrial action was contemplated, Mr McArdle said that the workers were up for further action, particularly given the public support they were receiving.

However, he said they would probably first give BT Ireland and Conduit Global an opportunity to "do the right thing".

The other two centres in Dublin and Ballyshannon were operating as normal today.

Meanwhile, BT Ireland said there had been a "great turnout" of 999 operators in all three of the Emergency Call Answering Service Centres this morning.

Large number of unaffiliated protesters

BT Ireland said that as the union would not reveal the number of members who voted for industrial action, they only had unofficial feedback to go on - which suggested that a large number of employees did not think strike action was necessary.

It stressed that no emergency call centre has closed, and that an extra site had been set up to give operators a choice of location in order to avoid what it described as "a large number of unaffiliated protesters that the CWU has apparently invited along".

It also said that the CWU has no role in how calls are being managed.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, CWU's Mr McArdle said that the workers have been engaged in a campaign for the past 18 months but found their voices were not being listened to so they founded their own union. 

Mr McArdle said that more than 75% of staff at the Navan centre are part of the union.

He said workers have been audited and found to be among the best workers in Europe and that their call for a living wage to be paid is not unreasonable.

He added that people should not be worried about calling 999 today and two other centres remain open and unaffected by today's action.

However, he said that he was not hopeful this dispute could be resolved soon but that workers were heartened by the public support they have received.

'Struggle for decent working conditions'

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said: "SIPTU members in our National Ambulance Service and Communications Workers Union members employed to operate the 999 emergency call service work together everyday serving the public. It is only right that we stand by their side today as they struggle for decent working conditions.

"The workers are calling on their employer, Conduit Global, to negotiate fair corrective action and on-call policies, accept workers right to collectively bargain as well as pay them a Living Wage of €11.50 per hour.

"SIPTU Health Division calls on the management of Conduit Global to engage meaningfully with the CWU to resolve this dispute," Mr Bell added.