Croke Park deal talks to continue
In addition to proposals to scale back on premium payments by ?170 million, health sector management is also looking to reduce the rate paid for overtime.
Public service management will tomorrow carry out further modelling work on proposals to reduce premium payments in the health service on Sundays, Saturdays and at evening time.
Talks with health sector unions will recommence when this is completed. This could be tomorrow or on Monday.
It has emerged that in addition to proposals to scale back on premium payments by €170 million, management is also looking to reduce the rate paid for overtime.
There were talks with education unions this morning and public service management representatives met trade unions representing staff in the health service this afternoon on proposals to lengthen the working day.
Health service unions said management indicated they wanted to increase the working week by five hours.
However, highly placed sources close to the process said the Government side had indicated it would reduce this figure in the course of the talks.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which took part in the talks today, had earlier indicated that it would not be available over the weekend but would be able to reconvene on Tuesday. The general secretary of the union, which has some 40,000 members, Liam Doran said no specifics had been put on the table by health service management in talks yesterday.
He said it was expected that more information would become available today and the process would continue for several more before it reached “a make or break point”.
As part of the proposed extension to the Croke Park agreement, it wants to cut the double-time payment for Sunday working to time and a half. It also wants to scrap premium payments to staff for Saturday and evening working.
The cuts would particularly affect groups such as nurses and gardaí, who provide a round-the-clock service. Staff in public libraries who work on Saturdays would also be hit.
Negotiations between the Government and unions on an extension to the Croke Park deal, which covers public sector pay and work practices, began last month.
Highly placed sources say management has indicated that the €170 million target for savings on premium payments could be reduced if agreement was reached to have fewer staff working at weekends.
Organisations representing gardaí and nurses say they will strongly oppose cuts to premium rates. About 2,000 front-line staff are expected to take part in a major rally on Monday.
Government representatives yesterday began giving more details to unions on proposals for saving €1 billion on the State’s pay and pensions bill over the next three years.
Talks were held with unions in the health and education sectors. Proposals for the Civil Service/State agencies and local authorities are expected to be set out on Monday.
Sources said the €127 million paid annually to teachers in supervision and substitution payments would form “a key element” of the Government’s savings proposals in the education sector. The scaling back of such payments could be facilitated by the provision of additional working hours, they said.
The proposed introduction of a longer working week for all staff is a major item on the Government’s agenda for the talks.
It is understood the Government has indicated it may move from its opening demand for staff to work an additional five hours per week. However, health service unions said last night that talks in that sector today would be based on management’s proposal for an additional five hours.
Pay cuts for higher earners are also proposed by the Government, although the rate of the proposed cut and the threshold at which it would be imposed have not yet been set out.
There has been strong speculation that staff earning more than €100,000 could face a pay cut, with those on over €65,000 being asked to take a step back on their incremental scale.
Sources said the issue of increments was at an impasse but that this issue was still being discussed at central level.
Unions are seeking changes to the operation of the pension levy. They want an increase in the amount which is exempt, currently the first €15,000. They also want the Government to deal with the emerging two-tier pay arrangements in the public service between new and longer-serving personnel