The Dublin government and public sector trade unions in the 26 Counties have reached a surprise agreement on pay and reform after a marathon session of talks last night.
The deal covers all the main sectors in the public service including Health, Education, Justice, the Civil Service and State Agencies and will guarantee current pay levels to the period up to 2014.
The trade unions, for their part, have agreed to implement “extensive reforms” in work practices and conditions of employment throughout the entire public service.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the agreement will create a public sector we can be proud of and a public sector we can afford. Unions will now have to outline the terms to their members and it will be subject to a ratification process.
The Labour Relations Commission said that most if not all unions had agreed to its request to move immediately to consider a cessation of industrial action that is currently underway.
The agreement says that in the event of “sufficient” savings being identified in the review to be carried out in early 2011 that priority will be given to public servants with pay rates of 35,000 euro ($47,000) or less.
The deal, which was brokered just before 3am this morning, says that the Dublin government intends to introduce an unspecified re-structuring and re-organisation of the public service in the coming years.
The deal agrees in principle that there will be no more pay cuts before 2014, with a pay review scheduled for next year, when officials will look at whether there is scope for pay cuts to be reimbursed to workers, to be repeated in subsequent years.
It states that the new agreement on the public sector will allow the numbers employed “to reduce substantially over the coming years in accordance with a new public service numbers policy which will facilitate a progressive reduction in staff numbers across the public service by end-2012 and will be implemented by employment control frameworks”.
It says the current moratorium on recruitment and promotion will continue to apply until numbers employed in each sector have fallen to the levels set out in these new “employment control frameworks”.
The deal also says the Dublin government may offer voluntary measures for staff to leave the public service but that there will be no compulsory redundancies in the public service.
The deal says flexible re-deployment of staff is necessary to sustain the commitment to job security within the public service. It says the parties have agreed to the re-deployment of staff, within and across each sector.
However the deal says the implementation of the measures set out in the document is subject to there being no unforeseen deterioration in the Dublin government’s finances. The Minister for Finance has predicted a return to economic growth by the end of this year, although heavy state borrowing is planned to continue for the foreseeable future.
In early December, a previous round of negotiations reached a tentative deal that unpaid leave would be provided to public sector workers in lieu of pay cuts. However, following a public outcry, that deal was abandoned, leading to the current talks.
Impact’s general secretary Peter McCloone said the outcome of the negotiations “presents everybody in the public service with the real possibility that we can find an alternative to the industrial conflict that has dominated the landscape in recent months”.
Mr McCloone said: “Currently we are facing very serious threats to public service...and the way we have been managing that up until now has brought us into conflict.”
However, he said the agreement presents an opportunity to restore the “trust, confidence and moral that has been damaged” and allows unions to “negotiate” their way through the “challenges rather than continue the conflict which is threatening to escalate.”
“Hopefully the Government and ourselves can find a better way to do business than has been the case over the last 18 months or so.”
Mr McCloone said he expects all the unions to ballot their members on the proposals over the coming days and weeks following a series of extensive consultation.
Mr Cowen said both sides had made “very significant efforts” during the “complex” negotiations but he felt the deal will result in “greater efficiency, better services for the citizen and more satisfactory working conditions for public servants”.
He said: “We now have an agreed shared vision for transformation in all sectors of the public service, and an agreed path on how it is to be achieved.
“This agreement will ensure that together we can create a public service of which we can be proud and a public service which we can afford.”
Main points of the deal
* No further pay cuts until at least 2014
* There is to be significant cost-saving reform measures across all parts of the public service
* Review of extent of savings generate to be held in Spring 2011 to determine if scope for any reimbursement of pay cuts
* Similar reviews to be carried out in subsequent years
* Substantial reduction in public service numbers in year ahead
* No compulsory redundancies but flexible re-deployment arrangements necessary
* Unified public service labour market to be created
* Merit-based promotion to be the norm
* Promotion and incremental progression based on performance
* Industrial peace clause to be put in place