Unions and management meet on Croke Park

29th November 2012 (updated 30th November 2012)

The first union-management meeting to discuss a possible extension to the Croke Park agreement took place in Dublin yesterday (Wednesday).

The union group was led by IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody, who chairs the ICTU public services committee (PSC). After the meeting he confirmed that management had yet to put forward any specific proposals to achieve the Government’s new aim of saving an additional €1 billion from the public service pay bill between 2013 and 2015.

Most of the meeting was taken up with a detailed analysis of the county’s budgetary situation by officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This confirmed that the Croke Park agreement was on course to deliver €3.3 billion of savings by 2015 – but that lack of growth in the economy meant that the Government now had to find another €1 billion from the pay bill to meet troika deficit targets.

Shay Cody told management that unions were willing to try to find an agreement, but that it would have to meet three criteria to succeed. First, management would have to prove that its proposals would make genuine savings.

Second any measures would have to be fair, which meant they could not fall disproportionately on any group of staff, particularly those on low and middle incomes. And, thirdly, the outcome would have to pass the tests of ballots in IMPACT and other unions.

IMPACT communications chief Bernard Harbor was interviewed on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme in advance of the talks.

It is expected that talks will intensify in the New Year with the target of putting proposals to a national ballot of members in the first few months of 2014. IMPACT’s May 2012 conference passed a number of motions calling for negotiations at the appropriate time.

In a letter to IMPACT branches last week, IMPACT 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.

“We will go into talks with the objective of protecting members’ pay and pensions against further cuts, and protecting against the future imposition of compulsory redundancies. Achieving success in this will mean agreeing to measures that cut the public service pay bill in other ways,” he said. Unions will be agreeing their detailed objectives for the discussions in the coming weeks.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said Croke Park protections on pay and job security will remain in place if agreement can be reached on other ways of cutting the pay bill. In its first two years, the Croke Park deal has already delivered recurring annual savings of €1.5 billion without recourse to compulsory redundancies or further pay cuts.

Shay Cody said IMPACT intends to negotiate with the objective of agreeing a package that minimises any burden on members. “We 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.

Read Shay Cody’s letter to IMPACT branches HERE.