The Dublin government has today announced a ‘deal’ on 26-County public sector pay despite four major trade unions walking out of negotiations last night.
The talks are intended to draw up a deal on a new Croke Park Agreement, the deal forged in 2010 between Fianna Fail and the public sector trade unions, which expires next year.
Under the proposed ‘Croke Park Agreement 2’, all public sector staff are to face a freeze of up to three years on their annual pay increments, as well as a reduction in certain overtime payments.
Staff earning less than [euro]35,000 face a three month pay freeze, while those earning up to [euro]65,000 and above will face pay freezes of up to three years.
There will be a longer working week of either 37 or 39 hours.
Pay cuts of 5.5 per cent will be introduced for staff earning over 65,000 euro. The scale of pay cuts will be increased on a gradual basis, with those earning over 185,000 euro facing a 10 per cent reduction.
The deal still needs the approval of union members and six smaller trade unions have so far refused to back it, leaving opening the possibility of industrial unrest.
The unions which walked out of the talks last night include the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), the Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU) and Unite.
The Garda (police) Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) walked out when briefing sessions to start the negotiations were held several weeks ago.
Despite the walkouts, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin claimed all state employees will be bound by the deal. He denied that low-paid and frontline public sector workers would bear the brunt of the pay cuts.
He pointed to the higher pay cuts for wealthy public servants as appeasing public demands for a more equitable pay deal.
In the previous Croke Park deal, the highest ‘gold plated’ pay rates and pensions were successfully defended by the trade unions. Socialists strongly criticised that deal, claiming the trade union bosses had worked to defend their own pay rates (which are broadly linked to those of top civil servants) while sacrificing the lower paid.
“No individual sector of the public service is in any way targeted,” Minister Howlin insisted today.
“Everybody is asked to make a fair contribution and I’ve made it clear this will be the last contribution people will be asked to make.”
The minister added: “At the end of the day it will be for the majority of the members of the public service to make this decision and I hope they will do that in a reflective way, understanding that this is a fair set of proposals and most of all a required set of proposals to bring about economic recovery.”
Responding to the proposed agreement, Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald said an opportunity for government and trade union leaders tackle the “massive pay inequity” across the public and civil service had been missed.
“Instead this agreement heaps pain on low and middle income workers and does little more than tinker with excessive pay at the top.”
She said it was clear why the four frontline trade unions had walked out.
“Nurses, gardai and fire fighters deliver a 24/7 service keeping us safe and well. They, like us, have mortgages to pay and children to feed. Their pay has been significantly reduced over the couple of years and they simply have no more to give.
“The reality is high earners at the top of the public sector are not in receipt of increments or Sunday payments. Even after the 10% cut to high pay those at the top of the public sector will still earn more than French President and British prime Minister.”