Workers urged not to pre-judge talks on pay cuts
Public sector workers were urged today not to pre-judge crunch talks between union chiefs and the Government over pay cuts.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) called on the Government to work with staff representatives to devise a credible long term plan to deal with the fiscal deficit in Ireland.
General Secretary David Begg said it was the responsibility of the trade unions representing each sector to strike a deal to suit its members.
"Congress as such won't be participating in the negotiations," he said.
"But at the end of the day there is a choice to be made by everybody on the end product.
"There's no point trying to pre-judge it at the moment and we all have to be grown up about these things on the Government side and on the union side and see what is in the best interest overall for everybody."
Kieran Mulvey and Kevin Foley of the Labour Relations Commission are facilitating talks between public sector management and unions in a bid to resolve the bitter row over pay cuts.
The apparent breakthrough came after a two-hour meeting between Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, Environment Minister John Gormley and Congress representatives in Dublin on Thursday night.
Civil servants - who have been on a work-to-rule since January 25 in an attempt to hit the Government without causing massive disruption to the public - were due to escalate their action with rolling work stoppages in the coming weeks.
While unions are not calling off their action, it is hoped any walkouts will be deferred until the talks are over.
However, the union Siptu, which had served strike notice on seven Dublin hospitals, said its action has not been called off.
Some 4,500 support staff are due to withdraw their labour for two days next month.
Mr Begg claimed if international markets saw the Government and unions come to an agreement it would send a positive message on the country's ability to work out problems.
"From my own point of view, I think a failure would be a catastrophe," he added.
"Not just from the very real consequences that would flow from that in terms of the internal relations between the Government and its employees, but I think externally the perception of it would be very, very bad at this time.
"But conversely if an agreement can be made, I think it would give a considerable boost to Ireland."
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the unilateral pay cuts imposed by the Government in December's Budget have created a poor industrial relations climate and must clearly be part of any solution.
"The renewed talks now provide possibly the final opportunity to undo the damage created by the Government approach, to deliver real improvements in public services and to repair the relationship between Government and unions," said Mr Gilmore.
"Firm political leadership will be required if the talks are to be successful and it is important that the Taoiseach involves himself directly in the process."