Croke Park talks ‘most difficult ever’

9th January 2013

IMPACT has said that talks on a possible extension to the Croke Park agreement, which get underway next Monday (14th January), will be the most difficult that public service unions have ever undertaken.

In an email to IMPACT members today, the union’s general secretary Shay Cody said that if unions and management could agree a package that could be put to ballot – which was by no means certain – it would inevitably contain “unpalatable measures” because of the scale of additional savings being sought by management.

Public service employers want additional payroll savings of €1 billion between 2013 and 2015 – on top the €3.3 billion reduction already being implemented. Shay said unions had been left in no doubt that management would seek to impose the savings, possibly in ways that would be far less acceptable, if agreement could not be reached. “If this were to happen we would have no option but to ballot for industrial action, as we did in 2009,” he said.

Although no specific proposals have been put to unions in advance of the talks, the employers recently outlined their savings objectives in a letter to ICTU’s Public Services Committee. The employers’ position is that:

  • Public expenditure remains €15 billion a year higher than the State’s income.
  • Management says a total of over €3 billion of additional annual savings is needed to bridge that gap in line with commitments made to the ‘troika’.
  • A third of these additional savings (€1 billion) will come from payroll costs, which make up roughly a third of public spending.
  • This cannot be done through further cuts in staffing and, therefore, management proposals “will have to involve reductions in payroll costs for serving staff, as well as substantial additional productivity and workforce reform measures.”

Shay Cody said the union’s task was “to minimise the impact of cuts on public servants and the people they serve, and to influence the shape of any changes in ways that best protect our members’ incomes and working conditions.” If a deal could not be reached, he expected employers to “impose payroll reductions in ways of their choosing as they have done in the past.”

Unions have told management they will try to reach an agreement, but that it would have to meet three criteria to succeed:

  • First, management would have to prove that its proposals would make genuine and necessary savings.
  • Second, any measures would have to be fair and could not fall disproportionately on any group of staff, particularly those on low and middle incomes.
  • Third, the outcome would have to pass the tests of ballots in IMPACT and other unions.

“Management will have to convince us of the genuine need for any changes they seek, and also convince union members that they are preferable to any possible alternatives,” said Shay.

The talks are expected to continue into February.

Read Shay Cody’s letter to members HERE.

Read the employers’ letter to the unions HERE.

Irish public service pay in line with other European countries read more HERE.