Saturday 3 December 2016

Unions want concessions on pay and pension at talks

Emma Jane Hade and Philip Ryan

Published 19/05/2015 | 02:30

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin

Public sector unions are expecting major concessions on pay and pensions as talks officially begin today.

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Union sources indicated they expect Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin to come to the table with a "fairly simple agreement" which recognises the sacrifices their members made during austerity.

Government sources have signalled Mr Howlin could be prepared to spend as much as €250m reversing pay cuts and reducing the pension levy.

However, this could lead to tensions within the Coalition as sections of Fine Gael believe Mr Howlin should focus on improving services rather than restoring public sector pay.

Union sources said they understand today's discussions will be "getting in to the potential wording" of any agreement while others said they are "not hugely expecting any surprises". Liam Doran, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said that he would like to see a "significant first step as part of this progress", followed by a timetable "with regard to restoring the remaining elements".

"Management is going to have to clearly indicate as part of Government, a timeframe they're intending to fully restore the pay and conditions that were cut over the last five and six years," Mr Doran said.

"We are not attractive to Irish midwives and nurses and the onus is on them to respond to that as part of these talks that are beginning today.

Restoration

Terence Casey, the general secretary of Medical Laboratory Scientists Association, said the key issue for his organisation is "some kind of pay restoration".

"The other issues are there, such as the hours and a few other aspects that we would have as well. But the general feeling is around some modicum of pay restoration because we had quite a significant ask of us during the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements in particular," he added.

"We had changes to our on-call, out of hours arrangement that would have brought €10m in savings, so there has been a significant loss in earnings for our members," he added.

Prison Officers Association deputy secretary general Jim Mitchell said they are "looking to get money back for our members".

"We have given huge degrees of change and reform over the last few years for nothing - actually for pay cuts," he said

"We are looking to try and regain lost ground, particularly money wise. Money is the primary thing for our people, to try and get back somewhere along the lines."

Irish Independent

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