Cowen requests rank-and-file union members to accept public sector offer


TAOISEACH'S REACTION:TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has appealed to ordinary trade union members to accept the public sector pay deal despite its rejection by a number of major union executive bodies and delegates in the past week.

Mr Cowen said there was no desire on the Government’s part to renegotiate the pact or to return to the drawing board.

Agreement was reached between Government officials and high-ranking trade union representatives in Croke Park two weeks ago, following marathon negotiations.

Since then, there has been a succession of rejections by trade union executive bodies and by delegates, including Impact, Unite, the ASTI and Unite. However, the deal will have to be balloted for acceptance or rejection by each public sector union.

Yesterday, Mr Cowen appealed to the wider membership by pointing to the “fragile” nature of the current economic environment. He also argued that the deal was the best possible one in the circumstances.

“I think it is important that everybody looks at the big picture here and sees what this deal has to offer. It offers us a background of stability to build a platform for progress and prosperity again.

“We are at a fragile point where we need to look at where the big picture is,” he said.

He said he hoped that all public servants would look at the agreement individually.

“In the overall context of lots of unemployment in other sectors, what we are providing is job security and flexibilities that will improve the work environment for all public sector workers. We can’t go back to the place where we were before. All of us have to work together now in a way that provides stability and progress,” he said.

The Department of Finance said yesterday that the proposed public service deal contained a number of very significant elements such as a guarantee of no further pay cuts until at least 2014.

The department also described as “a red herring” criticisms which have been raised about the so-called “get-out-of-jail” card in the agreement.

This states that the implementation of the measures set out in the deal is subject to there being no unforeseen deterioration in the Government’s finances.

The Government would follow through on all the commitments in the deal except in very exceptional circumstances such as another major financial crisis, said the department yesterday.

The trade unions, for their part, have agreed to implement extensive reforms in work practices and conditions of employment throughout the entire public service.

The proposed deal does not contain specific guarantees on reversing pay cuts that were put in place in the budget last December.

However, there will be a review of public sector pay in spring of next year and in each subsequent year.

These will take account of “sustainable” savings generated as a result of the implementation of the reform programme and determine if there is any scope for the reimbursement of pay cuts.