Unions acknowledge medicine is harsh but say members have avoided a far more bitter pill
Money saved by cutting substitution and supervision payments in the education sector will be used to eliminate the “two-tier” pay system which has seen recent entrants to teaching paid less than those appointed previously.
Unions also won a concession on the application of the pension levy, which they said would generate a modest saving of €125 per year for staff.
However, while a deal may have been struck between union and State negotiators yesterday, there are still a number of significant hurdles to be overcome before the measures are implemented on the ground and the savings start to flow for the Government.
Ballot of members
The deal will be brought before the executives of the various unions, which are expected to send the measures out to ballot. These ballots could take several weeks to conclude and a complicating factor is that the trade union conference season will begin at the end of March.
Union leaders will want the process started by then.
Even though union leadership is likely to argue strongly they got the best deal possible, vocal opposition is expected.
Critics are likely to contend the current Croke Park deal ran until some stage next year (the exact date is unclear) and that the Government has broken its terms by its plans to cut earnings. They are also likely to maintain that at the heart of the Croke Park agreement was a Government guarantee not to reduce pay further or introduce compulsory redundancies in return for co-operation with reforms but that they were now being asked to continue with the reforms while earnings were being cut.
There is also the question of the unions that withdrew from the process at the weekend and what their reaction will be to the new deal.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said on Sunday it would not be bound by an outcome. The public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said the deal would be decided by its traditional approach of a weighted majority based on the membership of individual unions following on from the ballots.
With the support of the big unions such as Siptu, this should ensure that it will be passed. However, there are no guarantees and events could intervene. The Government is also likely to have to introduce legislation to give effects to at least some of the cuts.
The Government’s negotiators, headed by assistant secretary at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Paul Reid, secured the Government’s objectives on savings in the deal. However, there could be many more turns in the road before it is finally implemented.