Government insists it will pass laws on pay cuts if unions reject deal
Key union ballot results expected this week
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will discuss all the issues with Cabinet colleagues after the results of union ballots are known. Photograph: Eric Luke
The Government is determined to pass laws to reduce public pay if trade unions reject the second Croke Park deal this week, but it has yet to settle on the “fine detail” of the steps it would take in that event.
Any legislation to force a pay cut on public sector workers would be particularly difficult for the Labour wing of the Coalition as the party’s TDs would be faced with the prospect of voting in the Dáil for measures rejected by many supporters.
Very tight vote
With the fate of the pay proposal agreed with union leaders to be determined within days, the expectation in Coalition circles is that the vote will be tight.
Although some Government figures said their gut instinct suggests the deal will be accepted, the proposal has gone down very badly with large elements of the trade union movement.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has suggested that the Government would legislate, if necessary, to secure the €1 billion saving in the public service pay and pensions bill it is seeking over the next three years.
However, ministers told backbenchers this weekend that no decisions have been taken on how the Government will deal with a rejection of the deal.
Coalition TDs were told that Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will discuss all the issues with Cabinet colleagues after the results of union ballots are known within a day or so.
Government sources said, however, that plans remain in place to introduce legislation to give effect to pay cuts if the deal is voted down.
While TDs were told that no decisions have been taken on measures to meet savings targets, one source said this was a reference to the detailed elements in any legislation to execute pay cuts.
Already members of three unions – the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, the Medical Laboratory Scientists’ Association and the Technical Electrical and Engineering Union – have rejected the deal in ballots.
Larger unions such as Siptu, Impact and the INTO are to announce their ballot results today and tomorrow.
On Wednesday the overall public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to meet to consider ratification of the deal, based on the ballot results of affiliated unions.
Senior Government figures are fearful that the INTO vote will be extremely close and could very well go against the proposed agreement.
While any rejection by the INTO would be very important, a similar vote by Siptu members against the deal would be critical for the Government.