Civil servants' union to urge members to reject pay deal

Shay Cody, chairman of Ictu Public Services Committee, with the draft agreement following talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement at Ballsbridge yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Shay Cody, chairman of Ictu Public Services Committee, with the draft agreement following talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement at Ballsbridge yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 00:00

The union representing higher civil and public servants is to recommend that its members reject the proposed new Croke Park agreement in a ballot.

The executive of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants decided to oppose the package at a meeting this afternoon.

The union is the first to urge members to reject the proposed new deal.

Association general secretary Dave Thomas said the decision was not taken lightly. “However, given the scale of the pay cuts proposed we have no other choice but to strongly recommend a no vote on the part of our members. The current proposals follow on a range of cuts already absorbed by AHCPS members in recent years.”

He said his union’s members have already had pay reductions of between 15 per cent and 17 per cent before tax and universal social charge increases are taken into account, in addition to extra working hours.  “There are other options available to the Government, not least in the context of taxation. However these options have been steadfastly resisted,” he said. “Against a background of ongoing cuts and general erosion in take home pay and conditions the current proposed cuts are simply a step too far.”

Separately Mike Jennings, the general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (Ifut) described the outcome of the Croke Park talks as “deeply disappointing”. That union is to hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to consider the proposals. “University staff face proposals for significant wage cuts. These proposed further cuts take no account whatever of major increases in productivity combined with substantial reductions in funding, staffing and wages throughout the university sector over the past number of years," he said.

He said staff numbers had been cut dramatically while remaining personnel were expected to cope with the highest number of students in the history of the State. “It is particularly unsatisfactory that the Department of Education failed to respond to requests by IFUT for clarification and commitments in relation to compulsory redundancies at third level. As a result IFUT will be forced to continue to fight each of these on a case-by-case basis, as we have done successfully in TCD in the past.”

Senior figures in Siptu, the country’s largest union, are to take a pay cut in line with those set out in the proposals for a new Croke Park agreement. In a statement, Siptu president Jack O’Connor, vice-president Patricia King and general secretary, Joe O’Flynn said: “It is our view that people on higher incomes should have made a contribution through taxation in Budget 2013. We have specifically argued for a levy on those earning in excess of €100,000 per annum. We had intended to declare our intention to take a further pay reduction on the basis that everyone on higher rates of pay should be contributing more through taxation but decided to await the outcome of the public service talks.

“We will be taking the pay reduction as per the proposals in the document prepared by the Labour Relations Commission. Once again, we reiterate our view that the proper way to secure a contribution from everyone on higher incomes should be through progressive taxation and should not be just imposed on people working in the public service.”

Siptu said pay levels for its staff had not been linked to remuneration in the public service for more than 20 years.

Results of ballots across the public sector trade unions are expected to be known in mid-April.

Meanwhile, the Civil and Public Service Union (CPSU), which represents 12,000 mostly lower-ranking and lower-paid state employees, said it will launch its “Nothing More to Give” campaign. The CPSU walked out of the talks along with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Unite union and the Irish Medical Organisation on Sunday night. The union described the work reforms and cuts as “too deep, too wide and too unfair”.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said this morning the Government will seek no further cuts to public service pay and conditions if the latest Croke Park agreement is approved by trade unions.

Speaking outside Government Buildings ahead of a Cabinet meeting this morning, Mr Howlin said there would be a significant hole in the Government’s "budgetary arithmetic" if the Labour Court proposals, the full details of which are to be published later today, are not accepted. The Government had tried to find a way to generate €300 million in savings this year in as "agreed a way as possible" through the negotiations, Mr Howlin said.

However, he acknowledged it could be difficult for public sector workers, who had already "carried a lot of burdens like everyone in society", to swallow further cuts.

Last ask

"I have said to public servants that this is the last ask. If you consider this, swallow hard as I know it's not easy and vote for this, we will not be coming back again and we can plan our recovery over the next three years," Mr Howlin said. "Hopefully the next time we sit down to discuss pay and conditions with the public servants it will be on the basis of a recovered economy and we can talk about improvements in pay and conditions."

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