Sunday 24 September 2017

Clawing back wage cuts is not a realistic option -- union

Aine Kerr and Anne-Marie Walsh

THE first civil service union to back the public sector wage deal last night conceded that clawing back the full pay cuts this year was not realistic.

The Public Service Executive Union (PSEU), which represents 10,000 mid-ranking civil servants, told workers that in an "ideal world" the full pay cuts would have been reversed this year during its protracted negotiations with the Government.

But in the "real world" union negotiators and the Government had to deal with the worrying economic climate, according to a circular from the PSEU's general secretary Tom Geraghty last night.

Negotiations

At the start of negotiations, unions had demanded a complete reversal of last year's pay cuts, which Mr Geraghty had described as a "smash and grab" by the Government.

The PSEU executive last night became the first civil service union to announce it was backing the draft deal.

"Negotiations produce compromises. An outcome that protects pay, creates opportunities for pay adjustments, protects jobs and allows input into the protection of pensions is quite simply better than any realistic alternative," the union boss said.

The union is now likely to be followed by IMPACT's 65,000 members when its executive meets next week.

However, the more militant Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), which oversaw the Passport Office go-slow, is deferring a decision until April 12.

CPSU general secretary Blair Horan yesterday conceded the deal was "deeply unpopular" with his members. But he insisted the deal should not be dismissed out of hand.

And Mr Horan added that a union of 14,000 members could not determine the overall shape of the deal, representing 300,000 public servants.

"At the end of the day, if the CPSU rejects this, that's not going to determine the overall shape of the deal. It will be important what unions like SIPTU and IMPACT, and indeed all of the teachers' unions, ultimately decide," he said.

With larger unions yet to vote, the agreement is not thought to be in jeopardy, and sources claim it will probably be dragged over the finishing line in the coming weeks.

Talks among all unions on the new pay and reform deal come as the CPSU agreed to lift its ban on overtime -- a move which will help shift the backlog of more than 50,000 unprocessed passports.

The National Museum of Ireland also announced its museums would operate as normal from this Sunday, having closed on recent Sundays due to strike action.

In the PSEU circular, Mr Geraghty said the first priority during the recent talks was to obtain a "clear statement" that there would be no further cuts in pay between now and 2014.

Mr Geraghty added that, given the current fiscal position, the Government was determined that it could not make any concessions this year. Instead of any commitment to pay reversals, pay reviews have been provided.

"Clearly, as government was adamant that no money would be restored in 2010, the earliest that any such review could take place is early 2011 or spring 2011 as it is described in the draft," he said.

Protecting

In a separate statement, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' (ICTU's) public services committee reiterated that the deal struck on Tuesday represented the best approach to protecting public services and the people who delivered them.

Restoration of pay scales is not guaranteed and will depend on real savings coming from public service transformation.

"But agreement on a mechanism to restore pay scales over time is a significant advance on the current situation," the ICTU statement said.

"The commitment that there will be no further pay cuts offers the prospect of some financial stability for public servants."

Irish Independent

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