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Sunday 24 September 2017

Different pay rates for frontline workers make deal a hard sell

FRONTLINE workers will be paid different rates while attending the same emergency – making it increasingly difficult to sell Croke Park II as "fair".

Firefighters at the scene of accidents on Sundays will be paid a different rate to ambulance staff, if the new deal is ratified.

Firefighters' premium rates will stay at double time, under a standalone agreement with the Government.

But ambulance staff, like most public servants under the main agreement, will suffer a drop in the rate to time-and-three-quarters.

The concessions made to some workers have already led to accusations that the new deal is fundamentally unfair to staff, regardless of whether their unions remained at talks.

Prison officers have struck a similar deal to the firefighters – which means certain payments will be untouched.

These include their twilight payments, night duty allowance, and Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday allowances.

But under the main Croke Park II agreement, most public servants will suffer the Sunday premium rate cut and will lose twilight payments.

Despite SIPTU claims that concessions given to firefighters were a benefit of staying at the discussions, many of its other members are furious they did not get the same concessions.

Premium

The union, which remained at talks, represents ambulance drivers, nurses, and support staff in the health sector who will be hit by the premium pay cuts if the deal is passed.

Other unions who stayed at talks, including IMPACT, also have members who will suffer the same cuts.

Ambulance drivers claim they made the same savings as firefighters under the last Croke Park deal, but are not getting the same terms under the new agreement.

They are represented by SIPTU and the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA), which is part of the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance. NASRA did not have a presence at the talks as it is not an affiliate of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Last night, it said the sacrifices made by paramedics had been ignored as the Government and SIPTU agreed exemptions for some frontline workers.

"It is now clear that the proposed new Croke Park extension proposals are the result of a totally flawed process," said national chairman Michael Dixon.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would not comment on whether it was transparent to exclude the fact that firefighters and prison officers are exempt from premium pay cuts in the final draft of the agreement.

This gave the impression that the cuts to reduce these payments will apply to all 290,000 public sector staff.

A spokeswoman said "ancillary side letters" were sent to those who were party to the separate agreements. She claimed this was standard industrial relations practice.

But Fianna Fail deputy Dara Calleary said it was unfair to tell firemen they were immune to the cuts when other frontline workers were not.

Irish Independent

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