Gilmore grilled on Croke Park deal position
LABOUR members last night heaped pressure on party leader Gilmore after voting to begin campaigning for a reversal of the public sector pay cuts.
The vote by Labour delegates at the party's weekend conference in Galway will now put Mr Gilmore under pressure to come out and definitively state his position on the Croke Park deal which seven union executives have now rejected.
The deal guarantees there will be no more pay cuts between now and 2014 but makes no commitment on reversing the pay cuts imposed on public sector workers.
Prior to last night's vote, the leader again refused to be drawn on the deal or the pay cuts motion tabled by the Wexford branch.
Mr Gilmore has repeatedly kicked to touch questions on the deal that is now being balloted on countrywide, as he bids to keep trade union leaders and public sector workers onside.
"There is a ballot taking place at the moment . . . I think we need to have a bit of respect for the people who are involved in that ballot.
"You have people who are working in different areas of our public services," he said.
"They have been subjected to a year of abuse in sections of the media and from some elements of Government. They've had their pay cut twice.
"I think they are entitled to just the respect that says to them 'you're having a ballot, study the documents yourselves, make up your minds on it, you can know how to relate what is on offer with the circumstances in your own employment. That's the position of the Labour Party on it."
The issue of public sector pay is proving tricky for Labour at a time when large numbers of public sector workers appear to be rejecting the deal negotiated by their union leaders with the Government.
Making the case for a campaign on reversing the pay cuts, John O'Leary of the Wexford branch said workers had only obtained a guarantee that their wages would not be cut again between now and 2014.
His motion called on the party to "actively campaign for the reversal of the unfair public service pay cuts arising from the December '09 Budget".
Members of SIPTU and its general president Jack O'Connor, who has strongly backed the Croke Park deal, are expected to attend the conference in National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIG).
Mr O'Connor last night insisted the Croke Park deal was a "mechanism" towards achieving a long-term restoration of pay.
Asked if he supported the motion tabled on reversing pay cuts, he said: "I would, yes."
The conference normally hears from a union leader such as Mr O'Connor but he has not been scheduled to make any speech. Sources said he may make an informal contribution but has other conference and meeting commitments.
In his opening address to the conference, Mr Gilmore pledged that if Labour was in government, he would insist on a full inquiry into the banking crisis. Such an inquiry would include the "blanket guarantee" given to all the banks including Anglo Irish Bank.
The entire NAMA project will also be reviewed, he said.
Among the other motions agreed last night were for legislation to control head shops and for the legal recognition of sex changes.
Mr Gilmore said he would be seeking a three way leaders' debate in the run up to the next election similar to those being held in the UK.