Siptu warns of New Year strike chaos if ministers refuse new pay talks
The country's largest trade union has warned that pay increases of €1,000 due to be awarded to public-sector workers next September do not go far enough.
Siptu yesterday turned up the heat on the Government as it demanded the opening of fresh pay talks by February 1 at the latest.
Union president Jack O'Connor handed the Government a deadline of next Thursday to announce details of the negotiations - or else the country faces a wave of industrial action in the New Year.
If this deadline is not met, Mr O'Connor will authorise union officials to ballot the 60,000 members for potential industrial action.
Asked what sort of demands the union intended to issue, Mr O'Connor said increases of €1,000 due to workers under the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) were no longer sufficient.
He said: "I think at this stage now we would be talking about more than that €1,000. I think we need to face up to the fact that things have improved, trends have been set.
"That [€1,000] figure isn't enough. Let me put it this way, the agreement should be renegotiated to deliver more money to people working in the public service in 2017 than that is originally envisaged. Now that's not a very radical statement."
Mr O'Connor also criticised the Government's failure to introduce a provision in the Budget for greater pay restoration. He attacked the decision to leave the VAT rate for the hospitality sector unchanged, pointing out that restaurant and hotel owners refused to enter talks on a joint labour committee.
Mr O'Connor also raised claims by Independent TD Stephen Donnelly that tens of millions could be saved by a further clampdown on tax evasion and vulture funds.
He said he was not proposing to unpick October's Budget but the money could be found if the Government was serious about doing so.
"We utterly reject the assertion that there is no money and that it is a choice between pay increases and services for the public. The fact of the matter is that the Government made choices in the Budget," he said during a speech at Liberty Hall.
The move by Siptu will come as a fresh headache for Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who is already grappling with the fallout from the Labour Court deal on Garda pay.
Government sources last night suggested that Mr Donohoe might propose a compromise in terms of fresh talks, which they suggested could begin in April.
But ministers insist any additional pay restoration beyond what is contained in the Lansdowne Road Agreement cannot take shape until January 2018.
A spokesperson for Mr Donohoe said last night: "Minister Donohoe this week met with the public service committee of the ICTU and agreed that further ongoing communication at ministerial and official level would take place.
"The Government has at all times affirmed its commitment to the LRA and to doing what is right for the entire country. A timeline for further progress in respect of issues of concern will be determined through further consultation with the ICTU."