IMPACT president Jerry King has told delegates at the union’s conference in Killarney this evening (Wednesday 18th May) that talks for a successor to the Lansdowne Road public service pay agreement must begin within 12 months, before the current agreement expires.
Jerry told the 650 delegates that the scale and pace of the economic recovery, and the continuing likelihood of higher than expected growth, meant it was reasonable for unions to seek earlier engagement on pay restoration.
“It’s becoming clear that talks on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement need to be accelerated. There is nothing new in this. The discussions that led to the Haddington Road agreement took place in the context of lower than expected growth, while talks to negotiate the Lansdowne Road agreement took place before the previous agreement ended,” he said.
He welcomed the commitment contained in the programme for government to unwind the emergency pay cut legislation (FEMPI) through negotiation.
“If we are to sustain cohesion and industrial peace in the public service, FEMPI will need to be unwound at a faster pace, with accelerated pay restoration for all public servants,” he said.
Jerry said the Lansdowne Road agreement marked the first national agreement since 2009 with ‘no backward steps’: “The workers’ bus may only be in first gear. But we are -finally – no longer in reverse,” he said.
Jerry told delegates that the ‘scramble’ to promise tax cuts and spending increases in the recent general election, and the lengthy process of forming a government, provoked genuine and understandable frustration for working people.
“Now that they’ve formed a government, they must rise decisively to the challenge of improving the lives of all citizens. As a union we stand, without apology, on the side of efficient, organised and well-funded public services. We stand on the side of every citizen to be able to access and use those services,” he said.
He added that the legacy of the moratorium on public sector recruitment had put more pressure on service delivery than ever before. Jerry said the demands of a growing and ageing population, where some workplaces had no staff under 40 years of age, was causing stagnation and demonstrated a need for more public sector recruitment.
He criticised commentators who attempted to divide public and private sector workers. “As a trade union we make no distinction between public or private workers who are interdependent in a civilised society.
“As the new Government begins its programme of work, make no mistake, it will be inundated with unsolicited advice on how to deal with public servants and their unions. If the crisis has proved anything, it’s that public servants and their unions are diligent, honest and responsible. But we must also be strong, because those same critics are mobilising in anticipation of a continuing economic recovery.”
Jerry welcomed the recent decision of the CPSU and PSEU trade unions to continue talks on a ‘New Union’ project. IMPACT delegates will debate a motion this week on continuing the discussions, which could see a ballot of members of all three unions in 2017 to form a new 80,000-strong public sector trade union.
Mr King told delegates that the New Union project “has the potential to create a formidable negotiating and representative machine.”
Jerry said decent work and decent pay are crucial to Ireland’s economic recovery. “If small and medium enterprises are to prosper in this recovery, decent work and decent pay will ensure that they have a confident, growing customer base.”
He criticised the growing trend of precarious employment through the use of ‘if and when’ contracts. “So-called precarious employment is no employment at all. It’s taking advantage of the young and the vulnerable and the less educated – the very people that responsible employers, committed trade unionists, and an ethical Government should have as our first priority to protect.
“Precarious employment is a tool of inequality, and we must oppose it. When we oppose outsourcing and privatisation we are staunching the spread of precarious employment,” he said.
The conference continues in the INEC, Killarney until Friday.