Government pay talks call to unions denounced
The Government’s invitation to unions to talk about further savings in public service pay has been condemned by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) as marking the end of the Croke Park agreement.
A full meeting of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will convene in Dublin today to consider the invitation.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said yesterday he needed clarity in advance of budget day on savings that could be made in the public service pay bill in 2013.
“There’s always a choice between cutting services or getting more savings on the pay side. We have decided that we will negotiate additional savings on the pay side,” he said.
He added that in the normal democratic process it might take until the new year to agree on the detail, but the documents accompanying the budget would have to contain figures indicating what the tax increases and expenditure savings were. “The idea would be that we would negotiate ways of savings across the public service without cutting core pay,” said Mr Noonan.
He said Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin had been authorised by Cabinet to speak to the unions about how savings could be achieved.
“He’s in charge of expenditure . . . we’re working together in designing the strategy. But he’ll activate it and he’ll report,” said Mr Noonan.
The Coalition had not started down this path at the behest of the EU-IMF-ECB troika, he said. “In general terms you know they make remarks . . . but this is an initiative by the Government.”
The Coalition’s decision to open the issue was attacked by AGSI general secretary John Redmond, who said it marked the end of the Croke Park agreement. The AGSI represents more than 2,000 officers at sergeant and inspector rank.
“Further cuts to public sector pay is outside the remit of the Croke Park deal. To date Croke Park has saved over €1.5 billion . . . while Minister Howlin suggests that a new round of cuts will be above the terms of Croke Park I’m afraid AGSI beg to differ,” he said.
“Our pay has already been cut by a massive amount over the past 36 months, 7 per cent general pay cut, 5 per cent pay allowances cut, 25 per cent reduction in travel and subsistence, 5 per cent levy from universal social charge. This is against the backdrop of a 10 per cent reduction in Garda numbers and an increase in working hours from eight- to 10-hour days,” he added.