Unions say 'new' Croke Park will be difficult


Unions have warned that it will be very difficult to secure a new agreement with the Government on its plans to reduce its pay bill by an extra €1 billion by 2015.

Unions have also warned that they will not tolerate any further pay cuts for low-paid staff.

Public service unions and Government officials yesterday opened talks on what Ministers are describing as an extension to the current Croke Park agreement on pay and reforms.

Under the new Croke Park extension the Government is expected to put forward proposals which were not covered by the original deal in a bid to secure the additional €1 billion in savings. In return it would extend the guarantees on pay and compulsory redundancies set out in the current Croke Park agreement to 2015.

Additional savings

Unions said that at the meeting yesterday Government officials did not table specific proposals for delivering the additional savings.

A spokesman for the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said the Government side had outlined the scale of the problem it was facing because expected economic growth levels had not materialised.

He said no specific proposals were put forward and the next issue for the parties was whether an external body would be brought in to facilitate the process. The original Croke Park agreement was brokered by staff of the Labour Relations Commission.

The spokesman for the unions said the subtext of what the Government had been saying was that “if we can’t negotiate an agreement they will find the savings from payroll in other ways”.

Paul Bell, Siptu’s health service organiser, said it had to be said very clearly that low -paid workers would not be taking any further pay cuts.

‘No guarantee’

General secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran said the unions had told the Government officials yesterday that there was “no guarantee we can square the circle”.

“From an INMO perspective we would very much be of the view that the people we represent have given more than their fair share in terms of pay and rosters and flexibility and meeting the demands on the service.”

Regional officer of Unite union Dermot Mahon said: “Our presence at these talks should not be read as acceptance of any valid case for cuts outlined as likely in public service spending.”

Among the measures the Government is expected to table in the talks are longer working hours, grading structures reforms , more stringent performance management arrangements, premium pay and increments as well as changes to existing flexitime working.