Croke Park II: unfair proposals target those who have no more to give
No worker has the right to vote for a pay cut to be imposed upon someone else
In recent weeks there has been a great focus upon the intention of Government to cut the pay of all public servants for what would be the third time in four years. Some of this commentary has completely ignored the reality that these same public servants have already had their pay cut by an average of 14 per cent. In addition, these same workers have been hit by all of the additional payroll taxes including the universal social charge and increases in PRSI.
The result is that the majority of public servants, who earn between €23,000 and €45,000, have seen their incomes reduced by more than 22 per cent since 2009. The Government is now seeking further substantial pay cuts, ranging from 3 per cent to more than 11 per cent, from the same workforce.
Staff who would be immediately affected by these new pay cuts include those in health, local authorities and government agencies who have to work shifts in order to maintain the services required by the community. The pay cuts proposed, through the reduction in Sunday premium and the abolition of other unsocial hours payments, range from 6 per cent to 11 per cent depending upon the roster worked.
This would be a permanent cut in addition to the 14 per cent already imposed and all of the extra taxes and charges. The average pay cut, for these workers, will be 8 per cent for someone on €35,000 per year. It must be noted, when the Government is talking about fairness, that a retired politician on a pension of €135,000 per year faces a 5 per cent cut.
All other public servants would suffer, under the proposals, temporary or permanent
pay cuts ranging from 3 per cent to 7.5 per cent. The shift workers referred to earlier would also suffer these additional pay reductions which would apply to all public servants who work on a Monday to Friday basis, for example teachers/civil servants/administrative staff.
In addition all public servants will have a longer working week, between 37 hours and 39 hours (with an additional one hour unpaid, if required, for those working 39 hours).
Furthermore, careful analysis of the proposals, and their impact upon other terms and conditions of employment such as flexi-time, attendance patterns, redeployment, job-sharing and work-sharing, indicate that significant change is likely which will have a significant impact on many workers including administrative staff.
In a workforce that is predominantly female the changes demanded will result in many women having to review their ability to remain in the workforce; a workforce that has already delivered huge change through flexibility.
There are those who say these further pay cuts are essential in the interests of the country and the recovery of our economy. They are simply wrong. The net savings, after all taxes, levies, pension contributions, VAT and excise duties are paid by workers as employees and consumers, would be as little as €80 million per year. Therefore these pay cuts would have a negligible impact upon our financial situation but inflict real hardship on public servants, on low and middle incomes, and their families. Furthermore these pay cuts would eventually lead to downward pressure on pay levels in the private sector.
These proposals are also asking trade union members to vote for a pay cut not only for themselves but also for their fellow workers.
Therefore it is not correct to say that public service workers should examine these proposals with reference only to how they affect them as an individual. In the interest of trade union solidarity, and protecting all workers in the public service, every member voting on these proposals must take into account the impact upon their colleagues who may be facing greater pay cuts than they are. It is a fundamental principle, for every trade union member, that no worker has the right to vote for a pay cut to be imposed upon someone else.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has repeatedly, and correctly, argued that austerity
by itself will not lift us out of the continuing recession. The proposals in Croke Park II are unfair, target those who have no more to give and will not, ultimately, address our funding deficit. That is why it is opposed by so many public service unions and that is why it must be rejected.
Unions calling for a rejection of these proposals are not seeking a dispute with Government in doing so. The current Croke Park agreement has more than one year to run and it has already delivered, and continues to deliver, real and sustainable savings to the Government as an employer. Any new agreement must recognise the financial reality facing public servants, who remain committed to the delivery of quality public services, and who have already paid their fair share towards the country’s recovery.
Whatever way these proposals are looked at they are unfair and anti-family and will not, ultimately, do anything for the wider economy. These proposals must be rejected and the Government made to think again, and not to threaten its employees.
The existing agreement should be honoured by the Government, as it is being honoured by its employees.
The Government is stating that if these proposals are rejected then Croke Park I falls and it will move to legislate for pay cuts. If it attempts to pursue this course of action it will turn a stand-off, capable of being resolved, into a crisis. When these proposals are rejected the Government would be wise to utilise tried and trusted dispute resolution processes rather than provoke wholly avoidable confrontation. The choice will be its own.
Liam Doran is general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation