Wednesday 26 July 2017

Labour ministers put on spot in row over €5m pay rise

Anne-Marie Walsh and Fiach Kelly

TWO Labour ministers must decide whether to give a €5m pay rise to staff at a major semi-state company.

It is understood that Bord na Mona chief executive Gabriel D'Arcy has asked cabinet ministers Pat Rabbitte and Brendan Howlin for guidance on a 3.5pc wage increase for over 1,000 staff.

The ministers face a tough decision after the Labour Court recommended the pay rise, which is due for over two years under the last national wage deal. A final decision will have to be sanctioned by Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Bord na Mona's board is not bound by the court's decision and has argued that the economic climate makes the increase "inappropriate and undesirable". But the peat producer faces strike action if it ignores the decision.

Pressure mounted on the Government over the pay rise last night, with the unions at the semi-state threatening "serious industrial conflict" if 1,100 staff don't get the increase.

Communications and Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte said it was a matter for the board but he would "imagine the board would have regard to the current economic situation".

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore confirmed that the minister would discuss the increase with Bord na Mona before a wider government debate.

APOLOGIES

"What normally happens after a Labour Court recommendation is that the company will discuss it with the line department and I expect they will be doing that in the next number of weeks," he said.

"The recommendations will have to be discussed between the line department and the company and I expect that when that is done the minister concerned will bring the views of the department to the Government."

The head of the Bord na Mona group of unions, SIPTU organiser Greg Ennis, said they made "no apologies" for seeking the retrospective pay rise worth €2.4m a year, as the company is profitable.

"The CEO is on a six-figure salary and many members are on €30,000," Mr Ennis added.

He said the staff are not public servants, but considered private sector staff when it comes to national pay agreements.

The unions will meet in the next few days to decide whether to accept the court's recommendation, which did not back payment of a second 2.5pc pay rise.

The court found "there is no justifiable reason" why the workers' claim "should have been treated less favourably than those in comparable state enterprises and none was advanced by the company".

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