Coalition to seek longer work hours in Croke Park
The Government is expected to ask staff in parts of the public service to work an additional four hours a fortnight for the same pay, in talks which start today on an extended Croke Park agreement.
Proposals to be advanced by the Coalition, aimed at generating savings of some €300 million this year and €1 billion over three years, are expected to include pay cuts for high earners, curbs on overtime and reductions in weekend premium payments.
Sources indicated that unpalatable measures would be proposed by Government negotiators for all parts of the public service.
Cut in pay
Sources said the Government had been considering an arrangement where staff in parts of the public service would be paid for working a 9½ day fortnight which would effectively mean a pay cut. If they wished to retain current pay levels, they would be required to work an additional four hours every fortnight.
Government sources suggested this could save hundreds of millions of euros in the health service, in particular.
They said issues around premium payments and overtime for gardaí and prison officers, and possibly for nurses, would also form part of discussions in coming days.
With gardaí and prison officers having seen their remuneration reduced significantly in recent years, any move to cut premium payments from double time to time-and-a-half would be strongly resisted.
Any erosion of what they would see as some of the last premium items in their earnings would trigger unrest. Prison officers have in recent years seen exorbitant overtime rates abolished in exchange for a pay rise and longer working week. Any effort to dismantle that deal would likely be strongly opposed.
Double-time payments applicable to Sunday work for gardaí and nurses could be discussed, with possible reductions to time-and-a-quarter or time-and-a-half.
Government could seek to introduce a ceiling on the top rate it would pay for overtime, a move which could hit high earners such as doctors where overtime has been traditionally based on salary levels.
The Government is also expected to look at the controversial issue of incremental pay increases. Sources said proposals could include cuts for high earners, particularly those at the top of their scales and who would not be in line to get further increments.
A core issue would be at what level cuts would be considered, with some suggestions that they could be for staff earning above €65,000 or €70,000 a year.
For teachers, there were suggestions that proposals could be made to alter arrangements for supervision and substitution payments.
In the Civil Service, proposals are expected to be tabled to change flexi-time working arrangements, particularly for management grades.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is expected to bring proposals to Cabinet for a new voluntary redundancy scheme aimed at staff in the HSE, the Department of Agriculture and the education sector.
Talks on the extended Croke Park deal open with a plenary session involving representatives from about 26 unions and staff associations.
The process is expected to shift to the Labour Relations Commission later in the week.
At that point, unions in the different sectors will seek to negotiate on the Government’s proposals and bring their own measures to the bargaining table.