Howlin insists deal binding on all unions

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, after agreement was reached between the Government and public service unions yesterday morning. photograph: dara mac dónaill

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, after agreement was reached between the Government and public service unions yesterday morning. photograph: dara mac dónaill

Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 00:00

The agreement on pay cuts and increment freezes would be binding on all public servants regardless of whether their union took part in the talks, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said.

Brendan Howlin, speaking just after all-night talks finished yesterday, said the proposals were extensive and complicated, and he thought people would ultimately regard them as “reasonable and fair”.

He said “none of this is easy” and public servants were being asked to make a further contribution to national savings on top of contributions already made.

“There’s an ask being made of every public servant. I wouldn’t and the Government wouldn’t have tabled these proposals if we didn’t see it as an essential component of reaching our target of economic solvency again.

“The proposals will be set out in a document from the Labour Relations Commission. They are quite extensive. It’s a complicated set of proposals because we want to ensure everyone is impacted upon in a fair way. It is an overarching set of proposals that deal with each sector separately. In the round I think people will conclude they are reasonable and fair.”

Ongoing discussions

He said he would brief the Cabinet on the proposals. “The Taoiseach and Tánaiste have obviously been in touch during the night and I have kept them abreast of the ongoing discussions.”

He said it was better for unions to have been involved in the negotiations than to have been outside them, but in the end the agreement, if passed at congress (Ictu), would be binding on all regardless.

“There are 290,000 public servants. Some trade unions have never been keen on collective agreements like this and haven’t participated. I urged everybody to be at the table and you can see and you will see from the substantive recommendations of the LRC that they have made an impact in changing, modifying, altering the proposals that were tabled by the management side.

“So being at the table has been very impactive but at the end of the day it will be for the majority of members of the public service unions to make this decision, and I hope they will do that in a reflective way realising this is a fair set of proposals.”

New agreement

Asked whether the agreement would be binding on those unions that walked out of or refused to participate in the talks, he said: “I made it clear once we embarked on this process that this was to encompass Croke Park. So this is a new agreement. It encompasses the agreement at Croke Park. When this is agreed this will be the new binding agreement.”