Impact rules out public sector pay cuts


The country’s biggest public service union said today it will not consider pay cuts as the Government and trade unions meet to discuss a major renegotiation of the social partnership deal.

The union, which represents more than 55,000 employees, told its members this morning that it will not negotiate pay cuts with the Government.

Impact general secretary Peter McLoone said he “did not have, would not get, and will not seek” a mandate for pay cuts from his members.

He said this position was shared by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) and was strongly endorsed by all the other public service unions at a meeting of Ictu’s Public Service Committee yesterday

Taoiseach Brian Cowen began talks in Government Buildings with both employers and trade union leaders on the need for a major re-negotiation of the social partnership deal yesterday. Mr Cowen briefed the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) yesterday and is meeting with Ictu later today.

Central to the talks are cuts in the public pay bill.

Last month Mr McLoone told Impact members that incomes policy was bound to form part of the talks, which were convened under social partnership to deal with the recession and the crisis in public finances. He has said the union is willing to co-operate - within social partnership - by helping to identify and implement savings and improve public service flexibility and responsiveness.

However, he said the imposition of pay cuts would effectively mean the Government tearing up the recently-agreed Towards 2016 transition agreement and abandoning social partnership as a mechanism for dealing with the crisis.

The Towards 2016 agreement provides for a pay increase of six per cent for all workers over 21 months, to be paid in two phases, with a 0.5 per cent increase at the end of the agreement for workers earning less than €430.49 per week, or around €22,463 a year.

Members of nine trade unions, including Impact and the country's largest union, Siptu, voted in favour of the draft national pay agreement in November. However, since then there has been growing speculation that public sector pay cuts will be needed given the state of public finances.

In an e-mail bulletin sent to members this morning, Mr McLoone said: “The unions have a responsibility to explore and embrace the measures required to protect jobs, incomes, public services and the economy in these difficult times. But that doesn’t extend to pay cuts, which would likely deepen the recession.

“Impact members can be absolutely certain that if they see me walking in and out of Government buildings it is emphatically not to discuss pay cuts,” he added.

While some private companies have already agreed to pay the new Towards 2016 increases, Impact says it’s inconceivable that any employer would agree to increases in a situation where the Government was cutting pay.

The union also stressed that any “significant changes” to the interim agreement would require a ballot of members.

“We are not turning our back on the realities of the situation, which may well demand changes to the deal we agreed before the full depth of the recession emerged. But unions are democratic, representative organisations and we’d have no credibility if we fundamentally changed the terms of an agreement without the approval of our members,” he said.

Mr McLoone said public servants were already making sacrifices with many long-term temporary jobs had been lost in 2008 and cuts of at least 4 per cent of payroll are planned for 2009.