Government seeks to cut public sector premium pay

INMO general secretary Liam Doran: his union will not be available for talks over the weekend. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

INMO general secretary Liam Doran: his union will not be available for talks over the weekend. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 00:00

The Government is seeking to reduce premium payments for staff across the public service who work on a Sunday from double time to time and a half.

It is understood that as part if an extension to the Croke Park agreement, the Government wants to abolish special "twilight" payments for staff who work in the evenings. Special payments for Saturday would also be abolished under the Government's proposals.

Sources close to the process said the Government wanted to save €170 million on its expenditure on premium payments.

The cuts would affect groups such as nurses and gardaí but also staff in public libraries who work on Saturdays.

However, it is understood public service management has indicated it would consider reducing this €170 million target if agreement is reached on fewer staff working at weekends.

Under Government proposals there would be pay cuts for higher earners although the rate of the proposed cut and the threshold at which it would be imposed have not yet been formally set out.

Sources said the issue of increments was at an impasse. Other sources close to the process also said management was no longer seeking staff to work one additional hour per day but the revised proposal was not yet set out.

Reductions in the overall numbers of staff in the public service and cut to higher pay are expected to contribute a sizeable amount of the €1 billion savings being sought by the Government as part of an extension to the Croke Park agreement.

The €127 million in supervision and substitution payments currently made to teachers is being targeted for significant cuts and possible abolition.

Government representatives today began setting out specific proposals for new cuts to existing payments for staff across the public service. Public service managers were briefed on the developments this morning while the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions was meeting this afternoon.

The union representing lower-paid civil servants said any Government proposals to lengthen the working week or cut increments would be "no go" areas for it.

"We do not perceive we have any more to give," said CPSU general secretary Eoin Ronayne.

Management in the health sector will outline proposals aimed at reducing expenditure by around €400 million over the next three years. It is likely that among the measures that will be put forward are cuts to premium payments for staff and the introduction of increased working hours.

Government representatives have proposed that talks in the health sector could continue over the weekend. However, The Irish Times understands that the largest union representing nurses, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, has said it will not be available for talks over the weekend but could reconvene on Tuesday.

Government representatives are also expected to set out proposals for pay cuts for high earners across the public service. Some sources have suggested that this could involve staff earning more than €65,000 taking steps backwards on their incremental pay scale, with those receiving more than €100,000 facing a straightforward pay cut.

A small group of key negotiators on both the management and union side have been involved in talks for the last month to set out the architecture for any new agreement. Sources said it was believed that sufficient progress had been made to move towards an intensification of talks.

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