Union boss says strike would be 'traumatic' for country
THE leader of the trade union movement does not believe a full-scale public-sector strike is in the national interest.
General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions David Begg yesterday raised serious questions about the value of the country's 300,000 public servants' ramping up industrial action if they reject the Croke Park deal.
His comments came as the chairman of the talks, Kieran Mulvey, ruled out a renegotiation of the agreement.
The draft deal guarantees that pay will not be slashed for four years and also promises annual wage reviews that could lead to pay-cut refunds, once public servants deliver wide-ranging reforms.
Its future hangs in the balance after being rejected by most union executives, although public servants will have the final say when they vote in the coming weeks.
"If it was decided to ramp up industrial action, as would be the natural consequence of a rejection, I think that would be a very big issue for the country because there never has been a full public-service strike or major dispute affecting the public," said Mr Begg on RTE radio.
"And nobody would surely want that situation and it would be very traumatic for our country and very difficult for everybody who would be involved in it and it's very difficult to conceive of an outcome that would not be a type of zero sum outcome."
Mr Begg said he believed the proposed deal provided a solution. "I think the judgement people have to bring to bear on this is 'is there a way of solving this problem at the moment with the current settlement?'
"My opinion, frankly, is that there is, although I'm not ramming that down anyone's neck. It's less certain if other options were explored that the problem could get solved."
Mr Begg said he believed the Government would act in good faith in refunding pay cuts although he acknowledged that ICTU has huge issues with its policies.
His declaration of confidence in the Government's guarantees came just a day after the Finance Minister urged sceptics to trust its assurances.
And Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary said there was "absolutely no back-up" to reports that the Government planned to slash public servants' pay again.
Meanwhile, the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association, which represents 2,000 members, has backed the deal.