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Wednesday 26 October 2016

'Special deal for gardaí could lead to domino effect and limit hiring' - Donohoe

Kevin Doyle and Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 01/10/2016 | 02:30

Head of Siptu Jack O'Connor Photo: Tom Burke
Head of Siptu Jack O'Connor Photo: Tom Burke

A domino effect that would lead to widespread industrial action in the public service cannot be allowed to develop from the dispute over garda pay, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has said.

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The minister has frankly shot down calls from the head of Siptu, Jack O'Connor, to review the terms of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

And he warned that giving gardaí pay rises outside that deal could stall the recruitment of new officers, nurses and teachers.

Informal contacts took place between the Garda Representatives Association (GRA) and the Department of Justice yesterday about the unprecedented threat that rank-and-file officers will withdraw their services for four days next month.

However, it is understood that there is unlikely to be any official interaction before the middle of next week at the earliest.

Like the gardaí, public servants who signed up to the Lansdowne Road deal want all the cuts they suffered during the crisis back, but their leaders are waiting for talks next year.

The Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, representing 19 unions, has demanded the immediate repeal of the "draconian" FEMPI legislation that cut their pay by €2bn.

But sources told the Irish Independent that the game plan is to hold out for negotiations in the first half of 2017. The Government is set to commission a report on the unwinding of the emergency legislation that cut public servants pay within weeks.

A Public Service Pay Commission is due to be appointed and sources said its first task would be the publication of a document that could set out a roadmap for pay recovery.

It is likely that the issuing of the report will be followed by an invitation from the Government to talks around March next year. These talks are only likely to influence the Budget for 2018.

Mr Donohoe insisted that he had no room for manoeuvre on pay in Budget 2017.

"The challenge that I have to manage is the potential for a domino effect.

"If we recognise in a different way the needs of one group, every other group then raises their level of need and has to respond back to the needs of their members and that's the reaction that we have to manage," he said.

Mr Donohoe added that the fund of money available to him also had to be used to improve public services.

"It has to be used to give me more resources to hire more nurses, hire more gardaí, hire more teachers, all of which we've done over the last year and all of which we want to continue to do in the future," said the minister.

Between this year and 2018, €934m will be restored to employees and pensioners under emergency legislation. But a further €1.4bn in financial emergency measures remains to be restored after the Lansdowne Road deal ends.

Union conferences earlier this year focused on winning further pay hikes.

Normally conservative unions, such as the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants, have demanded full restoration by November this year.

"We want the exact same thing as the gardaí," said a senior union source. "Everybody went into FEMPI together and they all have to come out of FEMPI together."

Irish Independent

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