Overtime flat rate and delay of pay rises key to negotiations


TRADE UNION leaders and Government officials were last night examining the issues of paying overtime at a flat rate and a possible deferral of increments for staff as part of additional measures for reducing the public sector pay bill. However, no agreement on these issues had been reached.

Unions have acknowledged over recent days that additional measures on top of the proposed 12 days unpaid leave to generate savings will be required if the Government’s target of cutting the public sector pay bill by €1.3 billion is to be reached.

Union leaders are concerned that any additional measures put in place should not hit any one part of the public service disproportionately.

The public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is conducting the negotiations with Government officials, is also anxious to maintain the existing consensus between unions which represent staff who work mainly 9am to 5pm, and those who provide round-the-clock services and who receive a significant proportion of their income through allowances, overtime and premium rates.

In the parallel talks on reforms in different parts of the public service, there was still considerably difficulty in the health area.

Last night, unions and management were still divided on proposals for the introduction of a core working day spanning from 8am to 8pm (during which no overtime would apply), as well as for the provision to roster staff on five out of any seven days – the so-called “five over seven working” arrangement.

Speaking at Government Buildings last night, the unions’ chief negotiator Peter McLoone said that he did not think there was any reason why the process could not be brought to a conclusion in one final session of talks.

“We are still trying to put what I think is the most important piece together, that is the programme for transformation in the public service. And if we get that, people will be able to see the exceptional measures that we are discussing for 2010 in their proper context.”

And they will also be able to be satisfied that if there are arrangements around unpaid leave, these will be dealt with in a way that will not put services at risk and will not result in any diminution of services, he said.

Earlier yesterday, general secretary of the Irish Nurses’ Organisation (INO) Liam Doran called on critics of the current talks process and the unpaid leave proposal to “back off and keep their mouths shut”. He said if the public service strike had gone ahead yesterday, the very people who were being critical would be saying that the unions should be inside Government Buildings trying to reach a deal.

Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar strongly criticised Mr Doran’s remarks.

“Mr Doran’s ‘uno duce, una voce’ remark is totally out of order. Ireland is still a democracy and we won’t be told to shut up,” he said

Meanwhile, leaving Government Buildings during a break in talks last night, the chief executive of the Health Service Executive Brendan Drumm told The Irish Times that the process had the potential to give the organisation’s transformation programme a further boost.

“It would be very helpful if we could reach agreement on 8am to 8pm work and on an extended working week, as is the case with hospital consultants under their new contract,” he said.