Unions warn of public service 'campaign' against pay cuts

Tue, Dec 8, 2009, 00:00

PUBLIC SERVICE trade unions have warned of a “long and sustained campaign” of industrial action in the event of the Government imposing pay cuts on members in the budget tomorrow.

Speaking after a meeting of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) yesterday, chairman Peter McLoone said that such a campaign would be “different in character and substance” from previous action which generally involved one-day stoppages.

He said that individual trade unions would meet at sectoral level – health, education, local authorities and the Civil Service – in the coming days to decide the nature and timing of such action.

However, Mr McLoone did not rule out industrial action taking place before Christmas.

Some union sources last night suggested that any industrial action could involve targeted strikes or work-to-rules aimed at affecting management more than the public. Earlier this year one civil service union, the CPSU, proposed industrial action that would target State examinations or the processing of passports in protest at the pension levy. This campaign never got under way following a decision by the Government to introduce amendments to the levy.

Meanwhile, Mr McLoone warned that co-operation with the Government’s change agenda had effectively come to an end following the decision by the Cabinet last Friday to reject an alternative plan put forward by the trade union movement to generate savings in the public sector pay bill without cutting pay rates.

“We cannot see that there is any longer a basis on which we would be able to engage with the change agenda.

“As far as we are concerned we have done our utmost to develop an agenda on change which would have been deliverable in the context of an agreement with Government which would have respected our ambition to avoid cuts in pay, cuts in pensions and no compulsory redundancies”.

“However, as we emerged from Fridays negotiations with the Government deciding that it had to be done its way or no way then clearly we do not have the basis on which we can engage with that agenda any longer,” he said.

Meanwhile Siptu general president Jack O’Connor also warned of “a campaign of resistance” following any budget that “attacked workers and the most vulnerable people”. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Irelandyesterday, he said: “All the indications are to the effect that they will impose another pay cut on top of the pay cut that was imposed on the public service last March. It will be a matter for the trade union movement and workers generally to respond to that.”

However, Mr O’Connor said there was “some possibility” of retrieving ground between unions and the Government “if something progressive” was done to make the budget fair.

He said if a contribution of €750 million to €1 billion was made by the better-off to “alleviate the impact on the most vulnerable people”, there would be “some chance” of progress.