Government invites unions to public service talks

20th November 2012

The Government today invited unions to discussions on public service cost-cutting and related issues. In effect, the proposed negotiation will be about a possible extension of the Croke Park agreement, in which guarantees of no compulsory redundancies and no further pay cuts will be extended if new cost-saving measures can be agreed.

The ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC) will meet tomorrow to consider its response. At tomorrow’s meeting, IMPACT will say that we should enter negotiations because the union’s May 2012 conference passed a number of motions calling on the union to enter negotiations at the appropriate time.

In a letter to IMPACT branches today, the union’s general secretary Shay Cody said members would benefit from an extension of the Croke Park protections in light of the very difficult economic and budgetary forecasts for 2013 and 2014.

“The union will go into any talks with the objective of protecting members’ pay and pensions against further cuts, and protecting against the future imposition of compulsory redundancies. Achieving success will mean agreeing to measures that cut the public service pay bill in other ways,” he said.

In the its invitation to talks, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and reform said: “The purpose of these discussions would be to seek agreement on additional reductions to the overall pay and pensions bill and on a set of measures to further improve productivity in the public service.”

There is no doubt that the negotiations will be difficult. The Government’s budgetary calculations have been knocked by the lack of growth in the Irish and international economies. As a result, it is likely to seek substantial further payroll savings over the next two-three years. Management proposals to do this without further pay cuts will be extremely challenging.

Mr Cody said IMPACT intends to negotiate with the objective of agreeing a package that minimises any burden on members. “We also want to ensure that any burden comes in the most acceptable form and, to the maximum extent possible, in flexible ways that reflect the different needs and circumstances of members. IMPACT will insist on fairness between different groups of staff and will seek to prioritise the protection of those on low and middle incomes,” he said.

The outcome of any negotiation will be put to a national ballot of the members concerned.