Siptu warns of confrontation if Government legislates to cut public service pay
Union urges Government to find ‘another way’
Siptu president Jack O Connor speaks at Liberty Hall yesterday after members voted against the proposed new Croke Park deal. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The head of the country’s largest union, Siptu, has warned of a major mutually destructive confrontation if the Government moves to introduce legislation to cut public service pay.
Jack O’Connor said he hoped industrial action could be avoided but that this was very much in the hands of the Government. He said Siptu would fight if it needed to but would rather find “another way”.
He was speaking after Siptu members voted by 53.7 per cent to 46.3 per cent against the proposed new Croke Park deal.
Mr O'Connor said given the extent of engagement with members, he believed those who voted No were resolved to take industrial action if the Government moved unilaterally.
“I do not think there could be very much doubt in people’s minds, here in Siptu anyway, that that is what the decision would entail.”
He said the message that had come back from members was that people had taken enough.
Mr O’Connor said the Government could choose to go down the consensual route which was still open to it rather than pursuing confrontation.
He said he accepted that the Government could not “magic away” the requirement to reduce its financial deficit by €5.3 billion over the next two or three years.
However there was a way of achieving this, he said, that would be a lot easier on working people, on people working in the public service and on people who depended on public services than the route on which the Government was moving.
Asked whether the trade union movement had the financial resources to undertake a widespread campaign of industrial action, Mr O’Connor said he could not speak for other unions but that “we do in Siptu”.
Mr O’Connor said the vote on the Croke Park II proposals reflected the sense of grievance among working people and public service workers, in particular, that they were carrying an excessive burden in the post-crisis adjustment.
“The result reflects the deep and well justified sense of grievance among working people throughout the country and public service workers in particular. They feel that they are shouldering the lion’s share of the post-crisis adjustment while the wealthy are not contributing anything remotely approaching their capacity to.
“We urge the Government not to proceed with legislation to cut the pay of public service workers as it would inevitably precipitate a major confrontation.”
The decision by Siptu members to reject the deal essentially sealed its fate. Without the support of Siptu the deal could not secure sufficient backing on the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for ratification.
In a series of results announced yesterday the proposals were backed by two of the larger unions, Impact and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) as well as by the Prison Officers’ Association.
Impact members supported the proposed agreement by 56 per cent to 44 per cent. PSEU members backed the deal by 61 per cent to 39 per cent.
The proposals were rejected by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), the secondary teachers’ union ASTI, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and Unite.
Nurses in the INMO voted against the proposed deal by 95.5 per cent to 4.5 percent. National teachers rejected the proposals by a margin of 69.5 per cent to 30.5 per cent. Unite members opposed the proposed deal by 84 per cent to 16 per cent and doctors in the IMO rejected it by 92 per cent to 8 per cent . The ASTI rejected the proposals by 85 per cent to 15 per cent.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan urged the Government not to resort to legislation cutting pay. She said since the Croke Park proposals were formulated, “changes to the promissory note deal and potential changes to the troika repayment schedule provided the context for a further examination of the financial adjustment required by 2015”.