Minister for Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said accepting the Haddington Road deal was the only way to guarantee workers would not be forced from their jobs. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
The country’s largest union, Siptu, has urged its members in the public service to accept revised proposals on reducing the public service pay bill, but the two main teaching unions have said they will be rejecting the plan.
The Haddington Road agreement, published by the Labour Relations Commission today, is a revised version of the overwhelmingly rejected Croke Park II deal to cut €300 million from the public sector pay bill.
The Government hopes full agreement with all the unions can be reached over the proposals, which include pay cuts of up to 10 per cent for public servants earning more than €65,000, cuts to pensions, longer working hours for nurses and a series of increment freezes.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said in a joint statement that the deal “does not represent sufficient change”.
At a meeting today, members of the ASTI rejected the Croke Park II plan by 84 per cent to 16 per cent, and voted by 87 per cent to 13 per cent in favour of industrial action in the event that the Government cuts teachers’ pay or worsens their working conditions.
TUI members rejected the original Croke Park II proposals by 86 per cent to 14 per cent and voted by 84 per cent to 16 per cent for industrial action.
ASTI general secretary Pat King said key reasons behind the emphatic rejection of Croke Park II by teachers remain part of the Haddington Road agreement, including the abolition of payment for supervision and substitution work and cuts to pay.
He said teachers were “aggrieved that after pay cuts averaging 14 per cent and significant additional work and flexibility given under the Croke Park Agreement, the Government is again targeting teachers and other public sector workers”.
To coincide with the publication of the Haddington Road agreement today, the Government unveiled new legislation allowing for unilateral pay cuts across the public sector.
Should rank-and-file workers reject the new plan from the LRC, the new laws can be used to cut wages without their agreement.
“Legislation is necessary regardless of whether the proposed reductions are the subject of agreement with the public service unions and associations,” a spokesman for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said.
“The legislation also confirms the Government’s ability to make the necessary savings should collective agreements not be reached with the unions, by setting out a number of contingency measures.”
Earlier today, Siptu urged its members in the public service to accept the new deal.
In a statement, its national executive council said the measures set out in the document optimised “the potential for generating savings through progressive measures such as the replacement of agency staff with directly employed workers”.
It said the proposals also addressed key concerns in relation to premium pay and overtime rates as well as the organisation of working time for members on less than €65,000 per annum, to the greatest possible degree.
“Simultaneously they provide for the payment of increments and clarity as to when temporarily reduced pay rates will be reinstated for those who are paid between €65,000 and €105,000 per annum.”
The Siptu national executive said that acceptance of the proposed new terms would preserve the provisions of the original Croke Park agreement, “ affording protection against compulsory redundancy, redeployment in excess of 45km and the potential for outsourcing”.
“They would also maintain the entitlement of public service workers to a say in the reform process. Meanwhile, they would guarantee security of income throughout a continuing period of economic uncertainty.”
The union said that if the Government the moved to implement cuts through legislation if the proposals were rejected by members it would immediately put in place a ballot for industrial action and for strike action.
Siptu said the new proposals would be the subject of extensive consultation throughout the membership, to be followed by a secret ballot over the next four weeks.
Siptu members voted last month to reject the original proposals aimed at reducing the public servicepay and pensions bill.
Separately the largest public service trade union, Impact, said it had achieved significant improvements for its members in the revised proposals.