Coalition prepared to alter stance on pay pact

Government considers concessions in pursuit of new public service agreement

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin is expected to bring proposals before Cabinet by May 14th for legislation to cut the pay bill if there is no prospect of a negotiated agreement. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin is expected to bring proposals before Cabinet by May 14th for legislation to cut the pay bill if there is no prospect of a negotiated agreement. Photograph: Eric Luke

Mon, Apr 29, 2013, 06:00

The Government is prepared to offer some limited concessions to unions on its plans to reduce the cost of the public service pay and pensions bill.

But it has also warned of pay cuts, indefinite freezing of increments and possible compulsory redundancies if there is no deal by early next month.

The Government is effectively adopting a carrot-and-stick approach to unions which rejected Croke Park II proposals this month.

It has warned unions that if there is no deal permanent pay cuts will be introduced for those earning above €65,000.

Incremental pay rises would be frozen indefinitely for all staff while plans for outsourcing public services would be intensified. Protections governing redeployment of staff to a limit of 45km would go, as would guarantees against compulsory layoffs.


Split shifts
In areas such as the health service there would also be reductions in the amount paid out in premium payments and overtime. There would also be changes to rosters to have more staff on duty at peak times. And there could be changes to staff numbers working on Sundays. The possible introduction of split shifts has also been raised.

However the Government will consider a number of concessions, providing the overall savings of €300 million on its pay and pensions bill for this year are realised.

It is understood the Coalition is prepared to look at phasing in the additional working hours required of some staff.

It is also considering the possibility of a wider compensation package to mitigate losses for staff who could be affected on several fronts such as pay, changes to allowances and cuts in premium rates.

The operation of the proposed changes to flexitime working arrangements could also be examined, while there could also be a protocol on how the proposal to allow management to “bank” the requirement for additional hours and to use them at peak periods, would run in practice.

However, overall the Government is insisting that it must save €1 billion on its payroll costs with €300 million being realised this year. It is understood the Government has no interest in a lengthy engagement with unions and has also ruled out making the savings by means of higher taxation, use of the proceeds of the promissory note deal or savings on prescription costs.

Chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey has been asked to report to the Coalition by May 7th on whether he believes there is scope for a negotiated pact on reducing the pay and pensions bill.

If he believes there is no prospect of a deal then Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin is expected to bring proposals before Cabinet on May 14th for legislation to cut the pay bill .