Unions say cutting overtime is breach of Croke Park deal


TRADE UNIONS have warned the Government that any move to cut overtime or premium pay rates or to defer increments would represent a breach of the Croke Park agreement.

The Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU), which represents lower-paid staff in the Civil Service, said any move by the Government on increments would have “huge ramifications”.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said any cut to overtime rates or premium pay would represent “a line in the sand”.

The union’s general secretary, Liam Doran, said if the Government wanted to walk away from the Croke Park deal his union would have to look at its options.

The warnings from unions came after Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the payment of increments to staff in the public service should be deferred.

Separately, Minister for Health James Reilly has proposed that consideration should be given to cutting the €800 million paid in overtime and premium rates for staff in the health service as part of a bid to address a €200 million spending overrun in the HSE.

Mr Varadkar told Newstalk radio yesterday he recognised that cutting increments would probably be a breach of the Croke Park agreement. However, he said it was hard to justify giving anyone a pay increase when services were being cut.

He suggested the issue of incremental pay increases was a “grey area” in the Croke Park agreement.

However, the country’s largest public service trade union, Impact, said it was very clear that any deferral, suspension or freeze of increments “would be a de facto pay cut”.

CPSU general secretary Eoin Ronayne said increments paid to his members – between €500 and €1,000 per year – were not bonuses or salary rises but payments which marked the progression of clerical officers from a low starting point of €22,000 per year to a final full rate of €35,000 after 18 years.

Impact said that as senior grades in the public sector had few or no increments in their pay scales, they would be unlikely to be affected by any suspension of increments.

Dr Reilly has suggested consideration should be given to reducing overtime or premium pay rates as an alternative to further cuts in services as a means of dealing with a €200 million overrun in the HSE.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has told Dr Reilly to engage personally with his department and the HSE to deal with the deficit.

He warned the deficit could reach €500 million by the end of the year without remedial action.

The Department of Public Expenditure confirmed yesterday that the Department of Health was preparing a paper for Cabinet on options for tackling the deficit.