Strike a deal or it’s wage war - Cowen

The 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen has threatened public sector workers with another eight percent pay cut if they reject the agreement negotiated with union leaders at the end of last month.

The deal hammered out between the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and the Dublin government has already been rejected by five major public service unions.

Under the agreement, Cowen promised no further pay cuts for public workers for four years, and ruled out mandatory redundancies.

The CPSU, which represents lower paid workers is the latest union to reject the deal. Many of the unions and their members have expressed outrage at the ongoing multi-billion euro payments being made to sustain Irish banks which suffered extreme losses through the speculation of property developers. Pay raises and cash bonuses to some of the highest-paid civil servants, as well as staff at the fraudulent (now nationalised) Anglo Irish Bank, have fuelled the growing confrontation between the 26 County state’s government and its employees.

Speaking in Tipperary, Mr Cowen refused to reject further pay cuts but ruled out calls for a further renegotiation. He insisted the deal is “what is now on the table”.

The Health Minister Mary Harney ominously urged public servants to “think carefully” about the public sector pay and reform deal. She also warned unions that there’s no other alternative on offer.

Full-scale industrial action by the union, which has already led to chaotic scenes at the Dublin passport office, will resume in weeks if members vote against the new pay and reform deal in a forthcoming ballot

The general secretary of the union Blair Horan said if members of CPSU voted against the pay and reform deal in the forthcoming ballot then full-scale industrial action would resume, including in the Passport Office.

He said in the meantime lower-level industrial action, including a ban on carrying out duties associated with vacant posts, would continue.

Four other major trade unions, including the largest public sector union Impact and the two post-primary teachers’ unions, the TUI and ASTI -- have now either recommended rejection of the proposed agreement to members or said they could not endorse it.

The national executive of Siptu, the country’s largest union, is to consider the deal tomorrow. Siptu president Jack O’Connor has warned that the rejection of the proposed deal could result in an even worse outcome for public servants.

“We can escalate the action which is at the point of moving to extensive withdrawals of labour. This could result in a better outcome but it will not produce reinstatement of the pay scales in the short term,” he said.

Fine Gael’s deputy finance spokesman Kieran O’Donnell has warned that the members of the public sector unions are likely to vote against the deal because of a “breakdown of trust” in the Dublin government.

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