Unions to be briefed on Croke Park plan

Thu, Nov 22, 2012, 00:00

Public service unions have agreed to meet the Government for initial talks on its proposals for a new extension to the Croke Park agreement.

The meeting with Government officials is to take place next Wednesday.

A spokesman for the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said unions would attend the talks without preconditions “to hear what management has to say”.

“Our expectation is that management will effectively, in more detail, outline the rationale for the invitation to talks rather than necessarily giving a very detailed agenda of what they will be looking for in those talks.” He said the Government had not tabled any proposals for new cost -saving measures.

Core pay

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin on Tuesday invited unions to talks in an effort to save, by agreement, €1 billion over the next three years in the public service pay and pensions bill.

The Government said the guarantees set out in the Croke Park agreement – no further cuts in core pay and no compulsory redundancies – would remain in force.

Unions expect one of the main changes the Government will propose is longer working hours for staff. Other issues such as increments, premium pay rates and possibly reforms to existing grade structures could also be on the agenda.

Speaking after the meeting of the public service committee yesterday, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Liam Doran said health service staff were facing a potential “double whammy” as management had this week tabled new proposals under the Croke Park agreement which would see €1 billion being taken from the health budget next year and a further 3,500 staff leaving.

Longer hours

Mr Doran said he did not think his members would look kindly on any proposals requiring them to work longer hours given that nurses had been involved in a major dispute a number of years ago to reduce their working hours.

A note on the INMO website yesterday said the union’s position was and would continue to be that under the current agreement all pay of public servants, including all allowances and premiums, were protected.

General secretary of the Civil Public and Services Union Eoin Ronayne said it would be incredibly difficult for lower-paid civil and public servants to embrace more change, “particularly if there is any suggestion that it will affect their take-home pay because they already feel that they have given more than they can be possibly expected to give in the current environment”.

He said the budget would be critical. “We need to see a third tax rate, a band of 48 per cent for those earning over €100,000. If that is not there in the budget it is going to be very difficult to make progress in the new year.”