Croke Park deal 'fairly negotiated', Bruton says
Richard Bruton has denied workers such as nurses and gardai were being punished because unions had left negotiations for a new Croke Park deal. Photograph: Dara MacDonaill/The Irish Times
Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton has said the Croke Park talks were negotiated fairly, and denied workers whose unions left the negotiations were being punished.
It emerged yesterday that firefighters and prison officers would retain premium payments under the proposed deal, but groups such as gardaí, nurses and doctors continue to face cuts to Sunday premium rates and the abolition of “twilight” payments under the proposed agreement.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio, Mr Bruton said the Government had accepted alternative proposals put forward by representatives who had stayed to negotiate the fairest contribution from their sector.
“There’s no question of punishment. The government offered a certain approach,” he said.
“Always on the table were elements in respect of premium pay, elements in respect of higher paid people, elements in respect of longer working hours and elements in respect of increments. A mix across all those was negotiated.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said it was “regrettable” that the Garda Representative Association did not participate in the Croke Park talks.
"It is also regrettable that they are misleading people by stating that they had not capacity to participate. The garda representative bodies have in the past participated and talks have taken place,” he said.
“They chose at a very early stage to exit from the talks. As a consequence they weren’t able to present, decided not to present, to those engaged on the other side with the Labour Relations Commission the very special issues members of the garda force are concerned about."
Details of the deal reached between the Government and firefighters emerged in a letter sent by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to trade unions.
The letter said: “In the context of the ongoing reform process in the full-time fire service, which will generate significant savings, the totality of the pay structure in respect of full-time firefighters will not be affected by the proposals in this agreement.
“However, this does not apply to the additional voluntary hours worked outside the rostered commitment. In such circumstances, the overtime rates that apply on a national basis in the sector will apply to full-time firefighters and the commitment in the agreement in respect of one unpaid overtime hour per week will also apply to full-time fire-fighters in respect of voluntary hours only.”
Later it emerged that the Prison Officers Association had reached a deal with prison service management which will allow its members to retain existing premium payments with savings being made elsewhere within the prison budget.
Separately the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said a new “grace period” would be introduced to allow those who retired by August 2014 to have their pensions and retirement lump sums based on their current salaries.
However, there will be reductions in pension payments for staff who retired before the end of February 2012, since then, and who will retire up until the end of August 2014.
The department said staff who left before the end of February 2012 had had their pensions reduced by about 4 per cent as a result of the imposition of the public service pension reduction (PSPR). This PSPR is to be increased although the rate of the rise is not known. The department said this will see the pension payment fall by between 2 and 5 per cent. For staff who retired after March 1st and who are on pensions of more than €32,500 a new rate of PSPR will be applied.