Croke Park controversy could drive some unions out of Ictu

TUI to ballot on quitting congress if cuts imposed

Delegates at the TUI conference at the Clayton Hotel in Galway yesterday. Photograph: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Delegates at the TUI conference at the Clayton Hotel in Galway yesterday. Photograph: Joe O'Shaughnessy

 

An unintended casualty of the Croke Park agreement process and the controversy it has generated could be the traditional structures of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) and how it operates.

For some time there has been speculation that unhappiness over the Croke Park proposals negotiated between representatives of the public services committee of congress and the Government could ultimately lead to some unions leaving congress.

Such a development is by no means a certainty but delegates at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland’s annual conference in Galway yesterday brought it a step closer.

The crux of the issue is who on the union side ultimately decides whether the deal should be ratified or not. Should it be the members of individual unions or the public service committee as a whole?


Weighting
Final decisions on such deals have traditionally been made centrally by the public services committee of congress under a formula that involves each union first balloting its members and then being given a “weight” for this vote – based on its size – at a subsequent meeting of the committee.

Effectively this means larger unions such as Siptu and Impact have a very big say in whether a deal with the Government is ratified. Some of the smaller unions on this occasion are crying foul and arguing this structure was acceptable for dealing with pay rises but not for pay decreases.

The argument of these unions is whether other groups should have a say in pushing through pay cuts for their members in cases where they had already voted to reject them.

The TUI is the only public service union to announce a result of a ballot of members on the new Croke Park proposals so far. Its members overwhelmingly rejected the new accord.

Conference delegates yesterday voted to hold a ballot on withdrawing from congress if the Croke Park proposals are imposed following a meeting of the public service committee on April 17th to decide on ratification of the deal.

Other groups have talked about such a move but the TUI is the first union to adopt this position as a policy.

The TUI also made it quite clear it would not consider itself bound to the overall decision of the public service committee of congress on the ratification of the new accord.

For the Government this creates something of a dilemma. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said that if the Croke Park proposals are adopted by the public service committee the Government will consider they apply to all affiliated unions.

The danger for the Government is that other unions could adopt policies similar to the TUI’s at conferences in the next few weeks.

If the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation accepts the deal there should be comfortable margin to get the deal through the public service committee. If the INTO rejects it, things could be considerable tighter.

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