Government will set up early public pay talks in efforts to defuse unrest
The Taoiseach has signalled the Government is ready to speed up public pay restoration talks but he has warned there will be no "blank cheques".
As pressure continued from other union leaders in the wake of the large garda pay offers 10 days ago, ministers will tomorrow discuss the prospect of an accelerated pay restoration talks timetable.
One minister said last night the Government is prepared to concede that talks on a successor arrangement to the Lansdowne Road Agreement can begin much earlier than expected. "We are ready to expedite the talks process, provided the unions are prepared to remove any threats of industrial action. As it is, ministers are being 'picked off' one by one and that is an expensive process," the minister said.
Earlier, the Taoiseach said he understood the demand from Siptu president Jack O'Connor that talks on pay restoration must be scheduled for February, otherwise he would ballot his 60,000 public service members for strike.
"What Siptu was talking about was the question of having talks. But we do not have the money to deal with all the claims that are coming, and nobody wants to wreck the progress made by people's sacrifices over the past six or seven years," the Taoiseach told RTÉ.
The general secretary of the Civil and Public Service Union, Eoin Ronayne, said workers understood the need to balance the books. "We realise the financial constraints. But these must be offset by the need to balance the goodwill of the public service workers who have taken real pay cuts and we cannot wait until next summer to start new talks," Mr Ronayne said.
The CPSU leader, who represents 13,000 mainly lower-paid clerical workers, said talks must focus on a full reinstatement of pay cuts, rolling back extra working hours, and restoration of entry-level pay rates as members had kept agreements.