'Difficult' to find €1bn in savings
Trade unions have warned it will be difficult for the Government to secure €1 billion in additional savings on top of those already generated under the Croke Park agreement.
Union leaders also strongly ruled out further pay cuts for lower-paid staff.
Talks between union representatives and Government officials on what ministers have described as an extension to the current Croke Park deal commenced this afternoon and ended after about an hour and a half.
A spokesman for the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Bernard Harbor said the Government officials had outlined the scale of the problem and that the Government was looking for an additional €1 billion in savings from the paybill between now and 2015.
“We talked around that, no specific proposals were put, that will come later.”
He said the next step in the process would be for the two sides to discuss the issue of whether the talks should be facilitated by an external body.
The original Croke Park agreement was brokered by staff of the Labour Relations Commission.
Speaking before the talks, Mr Harbor said €1.5 billion in savings from payroll costs had already been made under the Croke Park process. He said securing a further €1 billion would be very difficult.
He said it would be particularly difficult to find these savings in a manner that was fair and equitable.
Paul Bell of Siptu said it had to be said very clearly that low-paid workers would not be taking any further pay cuts. "We made that clear a number of weeks ago when people tried to cut allowances from our members' wages. That is where we stand. "
Mr Harbor described the talks today as a preliminary meeting. He said unions expected that management would today outline in more detail what it would be looking for in any negotiations. "We do do not expect to see specific proposals for change this afternoon."
The general secretary of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants Dave Thomas said his members had already contributed quite considerably towards savings already made. He said they had experienced a higher percentage cut in pay than other groups while fewer of them had been replaced.