SIPTU endorses new pact
Agreement still at risk of collapse despite support of executive
THE largest union in the country has backed the ailing public sector deal, but it is still in serious danger of being shot down.
SIPTU gave the draft 'pay for change' agreement a major boost last night when its national executive council recommended that members vote in favour of it.
The endorsement came just hours after the deal was rejected by the executive council of the main nursing union.
But the odds are still stacked against the draft Croke Park deal if public servants follow their unions' recommendations. It has been thrown out by the executive bodies of most unions that have given their verdict: the INMO, TUI, ASTI, CPSU, IMPACT, PDFORRA and UNITE.
Along with SIPTU, the deal has been accepted by three other unions, the AHCPS, PSEU and INTO.
The final result will be based on an aggregate vote of the affiliate unions of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' public services committee. Each union will be given an allocation of votes based on its membership, and these will be added together to record the final tally.
The deal guarantees there will be no pay cuts or compulsory redundancies for four years and wages will be reviewed annually, unless there are further economic shocks, in return for a major programme of reforms.
SIPTU's rejection could have been the death knell for the deal as it has more public sector members than any union, at 70,000.
The deal could also get another boost later this week. It is understood that the central executive committee of IMPACT which rejected the deal last week may soften its position.
Sources revealed the union is likely to decide at a meeting tomorrow to leave members make up their own minds by issuing no recommendation when they ballot.
Speaking after the SIPTU executive's meeting last night, general president Jack O'Connor admitted he did not know if his union's verdict could put the agreement "back on course".
He said he was unsure it could be accepted by his own union and admitted the executive's decision would be "unpopular" with some members. In a statement, the executive members said they found the proposals "offer security on jobs, pay and pensions and provide a framework for recovering lost ground, as well as affording union members equal influence in the restructuring process.
One of the key reasons for SIPTU's acceptance of the deal was its guarantees there would be no compulsory redundancies for four years. The executive said that outsourcing posed the "key threat" to the jobs of its members, and it would also welcome the fact that the first pay refund was for the lower paid.
The executive said the realistic choice was between continuing industrial action or pursuing members' objectives by accepting the proposals as a "medium-term strategy".
In its assessment, it said that failure to escalate industrial action if they rejected the plan would encourage further pay cuts. It said this was likely given the Government's fiscal plan, approved by the EU, requires a reduction in the budget deficit of €3bn by 2011 and the same the following year.
The union said the decision would ultimately rest with its members in a secret ballot in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) will ballot its 30,000 members on the deal in the first three weeks of May.
The union's executive is recommending acceptance of the deal, which the leadership of the other two teacher unions, ASTI and TUI, have rejected.
The executive of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) is meeting today to consider its response.