Frontline staff claims are 'wrong', says Impact

Wed, Feb 20, 2013, 00:00

The country’s largest public service union, Impact, has said arguments by frontline public servants that they are being singled out for excessive cuts are “wrong”.

In a bulletin to members yesterday, Impact said that management had sought cuts of €170 million from premium payments for working on Saturday, Sunday and in the evening but that this could be reduced through negotiation.

It said larger or equivalent sums were being targeted in other parts of the public service.

“It has emerged that over €350 million – more than a third of the additional €1 billion in pay and pension savings sought – is likely to come from those on higher pay, together with an accelerated reduction in public service headcount facilitated by extended working hours.

“Virtually no ‘uniformed’ public servants will be affected by any adjustment in higher public service pay.”

Facing cuts

Impact said other categories of staff in the public service were also facing cuts of the same order as the proposed cuts in premium pay .

“For example, if agreement can be reached, cuts in the education sector are likely to be similar to those in health. It is also likely that the amount of additional working time sought from clerical and administrative staff across the public service will be more than that sought from others.

“Impact and other unions involved in trying to negotiate an extension to the Croke Park agreement say claims that certain categories are being ‘singled out’ for excessive cuts are wrong.”

Meanwhile the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said figures produced by the Government on how nurses would be affected by proposed reductions to premium payments had solidified its campaign against the cuts.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said the figures were so stark that no one could view them as being reasonable or proportionate.

The Government figures, which were published in The Irish Times yesterday, show, for example, that the premium rate for a 12-hour Sunday night shift would fall from €417 to €324 for a nurse at the lowest end of the pay scale and from €604 to €470 for a nurse at the top end of the scale.

Staff nurse

Mr Doran said under the Government’s proposals, a first-year staff nurse with total earnings of €36,000 at present would lose €3,000 on Sunday work alone.

“This represents an 8 per cent cut in one fell swoop and they [management] are not finished yet. They are also looking to cut twilight and Saturday premium payments.”

Impact said that from the outset of the current talks, it and other unions had insisted any package that emerged must be broadly equitable. It said this meant those on higher incomes should be asked to contribute proportionately more, and that the net outcome of a final package should not hit any group disproportionately.

“Premium attendance payments make up a relatively large portion of the pay bill, which goes almost exclusively to a small number of staff groups. Management says it can’t be excluded from savings in the current climate. It also says that excluding premium attendance payments from any change, when everything else is on the table, flies in the face of equity.”

On Monday the deputy general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, Seamus Murphy, strongly criticised other trade union leaders who were involved in the talks with the Government aimed at securing a proposed extension to the Croke Park agreement. He said the Government was reneging on the current Croke Park agreement with the complicity of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.