15th January 2013
IMPACT and other unions have said that a deal to extend the Croke Park agreement would not be possible on the basis of the entire package of proposals tabled by public service management at the opening of talks yesterday (Monday).
IMPACT said the core protections of the Croke Park agreement, which does not expire until next year, remain in place and said the measures outlined by management (see below) had not been accepted by unions.
IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said it was no surprise that management outlined a far-reaching ‘wish list’ of changes it would seek in the negotiations, which are likely to run well into February. Shay has already warned that it would be difficult to reach an agreement.
“Management is kidding itself if it thinks we will agree a package that includes all the measures it tabled yesterday. But if this is a menu of issues to explore, it might be possible to negotiate an acceptable and equitable package that can be put to ballot, although this is clearly going to be very difficult indeed,” he said.
Cody is chair of the ICTU Public Services Committee, which represents all the unions in the talks. Unions told management yesterday that any outcome would have to meet three criteria:
- Management would have to demonstrate that any proposal would make genuine and necessary savings
- Any package would have to be fair, which meant the burden could not fall disproportionately on any group of staff, particularly those on low and middle incomes
- The outcome would have to pass the tests of ballots of union members.
The unions also say the negotiation will have to make a clear distinction between temporary measures needed to address the current budgetary crisis and change that would remain in place beyond the crisis.
The unions also outlined measures that had to be satisfactorily addressed in the negotiations. These included:
- An adjustment to pension levy by exempting more earnings
- Measures to ensure the elimination of the two-tier workforce
- The consolidation of relevant allowances
- Outsourcing policy and practice (including ‘section 38/39’ agency issues)
- Agency workers – costs and approach
- Redeployment policy and practice and the ‘hoarding’ of staff
- Casualisation, particularly in second level teaching
- The moratorium on filling promotion posts
- Jobs initiatives from Department of Social Protection
- Waste and duplication elimination measures
- Reduction in consultancy expenditure
- Incentivised career break and hours reductions
- The treatment of State agencies
- Outstanding third party recommendations.
Management reiterated that it would be implementing measures to further reduce the public service pay and pension bill by €1 billion, on top of the measures currently being implemented under the Croke Park agreement, and that it would seek to do this by agreement.
Management opened the meeting by outlining the issues it intended to table during the negotiations, which were grouped under three headings or ‘modules’: Productivity and efficiency measures; workforce reform; and further pay and pension bill measures. Management said it required different application of these measures in different sectors.
Its opening agenda was essentially a list of headings, with very little detail of exactly what would be sought during the talks. It included:
- Working hours, day and week
- Overtime/premia/twilight/supervision and substitution, etc
- Flexibility to deploy atypical working arrangements
- Management flexibility in the use and deployment of hours, rosters etc
- Extended opening hours of public offices
- Simplified redeployment arrangements and an extended distance for redeployment#
- “Exit mechanisms,” which is believed to mean compulsory redundancies in certain situations
- Changes to flexitime and work sharing patterns
- Performance-based contracts for management grades
- Grade rationalisation and consolidation and streamlined management structures
- Strengthened performance management processes, including “robust measures to manage underperformance”
- Pay reductions “at certain levels”
- Allowances review.
Unions did not accept the management proposals.
Last week IMPACT’s general secretary Shay Cody wrote to members outlining why the union had agreed to enter the talks. He said that “the employers will seek to impose payroll reductions in ways of their choosing as they have done in the past” if we rejected talks or failed to reach an agreement. “Our task in the negotiations is 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,” he said.