Unions ponder leaving talks process

 

Trade unions are to meet on Thursday to consider whether to continue with the process aimed at securing an extension to the current Croke Park agreement.

This will follow presentation by management on proposals on Thursday morning for reforms in the different parts of the public service such as Civil Service, health, local authorities, education, Garda Siochana and the Defence Forces.

In a note published on its website this evening, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said it was is expected that this would clarify “whether the management agenda is, in any way, compatible with the public service unions’ position with regard to the protections (pay/compulsory redundancies) given under the Croke Park Agreement”.

“The public sector unions have agreed to meet, collectively, on Thursday afternoon, to assess and analyse, what the management will have said in the morning. This should allow a decision to be made as to whether the process can continue with any chance of an overall agreement emerging. In this context it is expected that Thursday’s deliberations will be important and will determine, at least in the short term, whether the overall process can continue.”

Earlier today, the country’s largest trade union said there will be no new public service agreement if the Government insists it contains provision for compulsory redundancies.

Arriving at talks with the Government this afternoon Patricia King, Siptu vice president, said opposition to compulsory redundancies was a “fundamental trade union position”.

She said trade unions existed to represent the best interest of their members and that recommending that they be sacked was not one of the best interests. “There will be no agreement with that [compulsory redundancies] in it”.

Talks were expected to deal with the scheduling of negotiations as part of the process on an extension to the Croke Park agreement.

Trade unions have described proposals for public service reform tabled yesterday by the Government as “draconian” and warned the new talks process could break down at an early stage.

At the opening session of talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement, public service management proposed radical measures.

These involve pay cuts for some grades, increased working hours, the elimination of increments, a reduction in premium and overtime rates, and reforms to supervision and substitution payments for teachers. They also involve greater flexibility in redeploying staff.

Separately, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is expected to seek Cabinet approval for targeted voluntary redundancy schemes under which 1,500 health staff, more than 500 in agriculture and 350 in education would leave.

The scale of the management proposals – aimed at €1 billion in savings on the Government’s pay and pensions bill on top of those already secured – shocked many trade union leaders.

Union leaders set out their proposals for the talks yesterday and hope to negotiate significant changes. However, there were concerns among some leaders last night that the scale of change to the proposals that would be required to facilitate a deal would generate significant political difficulties for Mr Howlin.

The largest public service union, Impact, said last night it did not believe a deal would be possible if it embraced all the proposals. It would not put such proposals to ballot as they would not pass, it said.

General secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran told members in a bulletin last night that while the presentation did not include detail, it was clear what had been sought “could not form the basis of any agreement arising from these set of discussions”.

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