IMPACT leader predicts substantial savings in second year of Croke Park agreement

Thursday 17th May 2012

The leader of Ireland’s largest public service trade union has predicted that “substantial” savings will be verified when the body charged with implementing the Croke Park agreement makes its second annual report next month.

IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody today (Thursday) told his union’s conference in Killarney, County Kerry, that Croke Park savings, which were exceeding Government and troika targets, had so far been achieved mostly from reduced staffing. “But, as the deal approaches its second anniversary, significant cost extraction is also being delivered directly through reforms in organisations large and small,” he said.

Mr Cody said Croke Park measures had directly led to over €680 million in payroll and efficiency savings, and cost-avoidance initiatives, in its first year. Since then, public service employment had fallen by over 11,000, an agreement on leave standardisation had been implemented and there had been progress on rationalisation of services and agencies, staff redeployment, shared service initiatives, streamlined procurement practices, and many other local and national reforms.

“Next month, the implementation body’s second annual report will quantify the savings delivered under Croke Park in the year to mid-2012. I am confident that they will be substantial,” said Mr Cody, who is a trade union representative on the implementation body.

Mr Cody told delegates that the gap between State income and expenditure was over €10 billion last year, and said Ireland would still be required to “bring its books into balance” if new French president Francois Hollande won EU support for new growth measures.

“We fully support demands for an Irish and European growth strategy and have voiced imaginative ideas regarding sources of investment. An increasing number of economists, Governments – and even market commentators – are recognising that growth is the only realistic way out of the crisis in our public finances. We want alleviation of the annual burden of the Anglo promissory notes and we strongly support calls for higher taxation on higher earnings. But we also know that this alone won’t bridge the gap, and that public spending will continue to be curtailed until the gap is bridged. We have to continue to tell IMPACT members the facts because, as long as the public finances are in this state, there will be unrelenting pressure to erode public services, wages and working conditions. Our job is not simply to bemoan that – it’s to try to prevent it,” he said.

Mr Cody said public servants understood the need for further substantial cost extraction, but were determined it could be done without further erosion of their pay. “All the experience since the Croke Park agreement was negotiated shows that they are correct,” he said.

“We are currently half way through a Government programme to cut the public service workforce by 38,000 and to slash €3.5 billion off the pay and pension bill by 2015. Maintaining the range and quality of core public services in this context requires significant changes to working practices, some of which – like reduced dependence on overtime and other premium payments – are themselves cost-reducing,” he said.

Mr Cody was opening a conference debate on Croke Park in which motions included calls on IMPACT to seek to negotiate a successor to the agreement, which expires in 2014. Speaking last weekend, Mr Cody said he envisaged “informal conversations” on what might follow Croke Park f these motions were adopted.

IMPACT is Ireland’s largest public service union with over 60,000 members in health, education, local authorities, the civil service and non-commercial state bodies. The union also represents staff in the community sector, commercial state bodies and private companies in aviation and telecommunications.