Unions say deal 'difficult' to accept
Ictu public services committee chairman Shay Cody with vice president Sheila Nunan and secretary Tom Geraghty after a deal was struck between the Government and the country's public service unions. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
The agreement reached with Government is “very, very difficult” and will result in to falls in income for “many, many public servants,” according to the general secretary of Impact.
Shay Cody, speaking at a union press conference following the close of all-night talks with Government, said the unions could “not make the pay reductions go away” and there was no point in “sugaring” that particular pill.
“The judgment of the unions that entered into the negotiations is that we believe that the extent of that reduction is less than if we hadn’t engaged in negotiations,” said Mr Cody, who is also chairman of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
“Obviously these discussions were very, very difficult discussions against a backdrop of public servants having delivered very significant savings over the last number of years.”
He said the unions had had a choice: to engage and try to shape the nature and extent of the pay cuts or to stand back.
“It was made very, very clear to the unions that in the absence of engagement, agreement the Government was determined to extract the costs in any event and they would do so backed up by legislation.”
Irish National Teachers Organisation general secretary Sheila Nunan said it was significant achievement that an agreement had been brokered at all. “None of us knew at the commencement of the process that we would find ourselves at a point where at least we had an outcome.
“That of itself has a significance. Clearly there’s a very long road for us to travel with our own executives and our own members. Today at least we are pleased that we are sitting here before you with an outcome.”
Tom Geraghty, general secretary of the Public Service Executive Union, said his membership would have to assess the implications of this agreement as against what they could have been be facing had the union not engaged in the talks. “Public servants will have to measure the outcome of this agreement against the potential alternative.”
Mr Cody set out what he described as the “high profile ingredients” of the proposals, including increased working hours, changes to and some elimination of overtime payments and arrangements, pay-cuts and increment freezes. He also pointed to ’wins’ for the union side, including a reduction in the pension levy for earnings of between €15,000 and €20,000 from five per cent to two and a half per cent, as well as the elimination of two different pay-scales for teachers, depending on whether they started working in 2011 or before.
“We’ve agreed to create single unified pay-scales that will in effect give the new staff the same career path as the existing staff,” said Mr Cody.
Asked whether the decision by Irish Medical Organisation, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the Civil and Public Service Union and the Unite union to leave the talks last night had unsettled remaining participants, he said: “ The fact that they chose to leave the talks didn’t in reality change the dynamics.”