Ictu will 'resist' any attempt to impose pay cuts

Taoiseach insists Government must make payroll savings after Croke Park collapse

Wed, Apr 17, 2013, 14:59

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has said it will resist any move by the Government to impose unilaterally pay cuts across the public service following the collapse of the proposed new Croke Park II agreement.

Following a meeting this morning it said changes could only be brought about by way of consultation and negotiation.

The executive council of congress unanimously endorsed the outcome of the ballots of public service workers which saw the Croke Park proposals rejected over recent days. The public services committee of Congress, which conducted the recent negotiations with the Government that led to the Croke Park II proposals, is meeting this afternoon.

Its statement comes after Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that the Government must meet its targeted public service payroll savings.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil that there had to be €300 million extra in savings this year and €1 billion by 2015. “That is the challenge and the issue the Government now has to face,’’ he said. He added that the Government was “absolutely united with the Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, in declaring the truth of this matter’’.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Government’s strategy, which was essentially one of divide and conquer, with a little bit of bribery at the end, was clearly wrong and had misfired. He asked if the Government had a “plan B’’, adding that Mr Howlin appeared to have been shell-shocked in an interview on RTÉ television yesterday.

Mr Kenny said he wanted to assure Mr Martin and everybody else that the Government was absolutely united behind Mr Howlin in his declaration that the savings needed to be found. “There is absolute unity of purpose in Government towards achieving that objective,’’ he added.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government had been sent a very clear signal that enough had been taken from public sector workers and they had no more to give.

In Strasbourg President Michael D Higgins said in relation to Croke Park II that he could not comment directly on what is an instrument of the present government, he said that in any response to it one has to try and see models that will in fact get us to “making an impact on the lives of people.”

“ There are some things that are noble technically, in relation to, for example, the contraction of economies in Europe. You can actually measure that. The issue isn’t totally one of measurement. The issue is one of the connection between the economy, society and also will arrive for another day in relation to how the European Union looks outside of itself, into the global economy,” he said.

Earlier today Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore said it was “too early” to speculate on options such as legislating for cuts after the collapse of the Croke Park II deal. Mr Gilmore today also denied that the rejection of the agreement would damage the Coalition.

Asked about warnings last week by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin that he would legislate for cuts if the deal was rejected, Mr Gilmore said the Government had to “consider the consequences of the ballot” and that it was “too early to be speculating on specific options”.

On the possibility of renegotiating the deal with unions, Mr Gilmore said the Government had to look at and analyse the entire ballot but there was “still a very real reality” that the “payroll savings have to be made”. He reiterated comments made by Mr Howlin last night that €300 million in savings still had to be found this year.

The rejection of the deal by a significant majority presents a major headache for the Coalition, and in particular for the Labour Party. However, Mr Gilmore denied that it would damage the Coalition or Labour. “Pay agreements have been put on the table before have been rejected before. There is nothing particularly exceptional about that,” he said.

Meanwhile Labour TD for Clare Michael McNamara has said he would not vote for a 7 per cent pay cut “tomorrow morning” and more negotiations were needed. “If the Labour party stands for anything, it’s about protecting public services, and an important facet of that is protecting those who provide the services” he told RTÉ Radio . He urged public sector management to come up with proposals as to how savings could be achieved . There “has to be renegotiation” which he was “hopeful could be successful”, he said.

Elsewhere Minister for Communications and Labour TD Pat Rabbitte said he would “not at this stage cut off any option” as to how the State might find €300m in savings and “all options will have to be looked at”. Mr Rabbitte said he was “always in favour of maintaining best quality dialogue with the trade unions”

Mr Howlin spoke to EU-IMF troika representatives on the phone last night to explain the significance of the vote and will meet them next week for more detailed discussions.

The rejection of the deal in effect led to the collapse of the Government’s strategy to secure the savings by agreement with staff. Any revised deal would have to be put out again to ballot and, to meet the Government deadline of July for savings to come on stream. Any new talks would have to be completed by the end of May.

Any decision to impose pay cuts would require legislation and that would create difficulties for Labour TDs. The Labour parliamentary party is to discuss the issue at its weekly meeting this evening. Mr Gilmore said today that he expected it would discuss “current issues and what’s on the political agenda and our plans into the foreseeable future”.

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