O'Keeffe sees basis for further talks


MINISTER FOR Education Batt O'Keeffe yesterday appeared to offer an olive branch to the trade union movement, saying the discussions on reducing the public sector wage bill may have collapsed but much good work had been done which laid the basis for further talks next year.

He said that the work done in the talks would "form an outstanding basis for talks into next year".

Mr O'Keeffe instanced the willingness of the teaching unions to offer an additional hour a week for supervision in the talks which, with 60,000 teachers in the system, would result in an extra 60,000 hours becoming available.

He said even more significant was the fact that the trade union negotiating team had indicated that it was willing to renegotiate contracts at primary, secondary and third-level, which offered huge potential.

He pointed out that the unions had agreed in negotiations to date that savings of up to €1.3 billion have to be made in the public sector wage bill, and while talks had collapsed they did recognise that the savings would have to be made.

"They know we can't agree on the mechanism as to how the Government is going to achieve savings this year, and the Government will have to take a decision in relation to pay, but the fundamentals of the framework are there for us to negotiate into 2011."