Croke Park talks update – 4th February 2013

Talks on a possible extension to the Croke Park agreement have continued for another week. Management continues to pursue a range of issues including accelerated headcount reduction, a ‘higher pay’ contribution, working hours, allowances and premium payments.

Union negotiators have tabled an agenda that includes revision of the pension levy, the two-tier, workforce and other industrial relations issues outlined in previous IMPACT bulletins.

A number of IMPACT branch annual general meetings have debated the issue of increased working time, as it has emerged as a key management demand. Management negotiators are demanding that all public servants work the equivalent of an extra hour a day, regardless of whether their current working week is 39 hours, 37 hours, 35 hours or less. IMPACT and other unions have told them that we will not agree to increased working time on this scale.

The unions have also demanded that management gives full details of how, and by how much, added time would reduce the public service pay bill. The unions have engaged external financial advisors to examine the management data when it is tabled.

But, in any case, IMPACT has said it will not recommend a package that includes five additional working hours each week.

The issue of working time was discussed by the union’s elected Central Executive Committee (CEC) last Thursday (31st January). The union’s general secretary Shay Cody told the committee he believed management would not agree to a package that did not include some element of increased working time. Therefore there was no prospect of agreeing an extension to the Croke Park agreement, or its protections on pay, compulsory redundancies and other issues, if unions refused to discuss any proposals on working time.

Management has already said that, in the absence of an agreed extension to the Croke Park deal, it will seek to impose payroll savings of “at least” €1 billion. It is also clear that influential elements in the political world would seek to impose other unpalatable changes in the absence of an agreement. Public statements by ministers have, among other things, called for the introduction of compulsory redundancies and the freezing, or even abolition, of increments.

For this reason, the CEC reiterated that the union’s job was to try to reach an acceptable agreement, and to shape the outcome of the negotiations in ways that best protect IMPACT members on a range of issues including working time.

IMPACT has emphasised that any package that emerges from the talks must be equitable. The union has also repeatedly reminded management negotiators that any package must be put to a ballot of all members, who will have the final say on whether to accept or reject it.

Read earlier updates HERE.