Unions to decide on Croke Park tactics


ANALYSIS:Within the next few days all organisations representing public service staff should have received details of the Government’s proposals for saving €1 billion on its pay and pensions bill over the next three years.

The key decisions for the unions at that stage is whether to remain in the talks with a view to trying to modify the Government proposals or to leave and campaign against the moves from the sidelines.

The position is not a very comfortable one for trade union leaders. The Government’s objective in the process to secure an extension to the Croke Park agreement is to pay out less money in the future than it is at the moment.

First tranche

For many staff this means that their earnings – whether comprising core pay or a combination of core pay and allowances and premium rates – would be less after any agreement than it was before.

The Government has made clear that saving €300 million this year – the first tranche of the overall €1 billion figure – is essential to its budgetary arithmetic. It has said it will legislate to force through the cuts if no deal is reached.

The talks have been under way for over a month but it is only in recent days that the Government side began setting out specific proposals for the different sectors – health, Civil Service, local authorities, education etc.

Already staff who provide services on a round-the-clock basis such as gardaí and nurses are strongly opposed to Government proposals to introduce cuts of €170 million to premium payments for working at weekends or evening time.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said it is opposed to any cuts to members’ earnings. However, groups in the frontline “24/7 alliance” are unlikely to be the only ones opposed to the Government’s overall proposals. There is likely to be opposition from teachers when the full details of the proposals for the education sector emerges.

‘Nothing more to give’

Sources at the weekend said that the Government was looking to abolish “the vast majority” of the €125 million paid out in supervision and substitution payments.

The union representing lower-paid civil servants, the CPSU, warned that its members believed they had “nothing more to give” and that it would be opposed to any lengthening of the working week or changes to existing flexitime working arrangements. These are expected to form key elements of the Government’s proposals for the Civil Service, to be spelled out today.

The outline of the proposal for saving €1 billion on the pay and pensions bill is becoming clear. It would involve staff facing some form of combination of longer hours, cuts to overtime, cuts to premium payments, a continued pay freeze, and a cessation to the payment of increments. For higher earners – the threshold has not yet been agreed but there are suggestions it could be about €65,000 – there would be a pay cut or a step back on the incremental scale.

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