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Saturday 3 December 2016

Civil servants demand reversal of €2bn pay cuts

Deadline of six months given to restore wages

Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 08/05/2016 | 02:30

The union wants refunds of €1bn already promised under the Lansdowne Road deal to be speeded up.
The union wants refunds of €1bn already promised under the Lansdowne Road deal to be speeded up.

Union chiefs have warned the new Government it wants the full €2bn pay cuts suffered by public servants during the economic crisis reversed within six months - potentially a major challenge to the unity of the new minority administration.

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The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS), representing 3,000 senior civil servants and managers, said the first big industrial relations issue facing the incoming Cabinet would be how quickly it fast-tracks the restoration of pay reductions.

It said it was considering legal action if wage increases were not accelerated, especially as the country was due to exit the "corrective arm" of EU rules for deficit control.

But it will not consider industrial action until the new administration responds with an outline of its plan of action on reversing the emergency legislation that led to the cuts.

The union wants refunds of €1bn already promised under the Lansdowne Road deal to be speeded up, including pay cuts that hit members earning over €65,000 due next year and the following year, as well as the remainder of the €1bn cuts refunded in this timeframe. A draft plan merely states that pay restoration under the Lansdowne Road agreement will be "gradual".

The union said the government initiative to set up a commission on public sector pay was being seen "as a mechanism for preventing strikes across the sector that would have the potential to cripple a minority government reliant on Opposition co-operation".

But in a Paper on Pay presented to its members at its annual conference last week, it called for more detail on the "proposed mechanism" that is due to be set up within six months, and warned that "ultimately consultation will be critical to its success". It said it must be "robust, inclusive and independent".

The commission is being established to examine wage levels in the State sector, including pay for new entrants.

"Reversing FEMPI will be the first big industrial relations challenge facing the Government, followed by how it will measure pay in future," said general secretary of the AHCPS Ciaran Rohan. "We're going to get legal advice on the FEMPI legislation as with projected growth, the Government cannot claim there is an emergency."

The union paper questions whether Fine Gael will get a Dail majority to back its stance for the gradual granting of pay rises. This is because Fianna Fail promised to repeal the legislation, which would lead to the immediate restoration of all pay levels.

However, when contacted, Mr Rohan said this had been overtaken by events as a draft programme for government showed there had been agreement on a "gradual" restoration of pay. "But what does gradual mean?" he asked.

The paper calls for a "clear and accelerated" timetable for the reversal of all the cuts to wages and pensions under the emergency legislation.

"The FEMPI legislation was by its nature emergency legislation - and if the emergency is now over, FEMPI should be over," it says.

Sunday Independent

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