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Coalition asks unions for new Croke Park talks

THE Government has asked trade unions to consider renegotiating the controversial Croke Park II deal on pay and conditions just a week after it was rejected.

The Labour Relations Commission (LRC) has been asked to contact trade unions to see if there is a basis to revisit talks.

But the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has insisted that it must cut €300m this year and a further €1bn by 2015 from civil service salaries.

Union sources said it would be difficult to enter talks with preconditions attached.

The move came just hours after Jack O'Connor – head of the country's largest trade union, SIPTU – warned that workers and the Government faced an "unnecessary and mutually destructive confrontation" if the Coalition went ahead with proposed across-the-board pay cuts of 7pc after Croke Park II was rejected.

Mr O'Connor called for the wealthy to pay higher taxes, for a cap of €100,000 on all public sector pensions and for the Government to use the savings from the promissory note deal to avoid further cuts.

But business group Chambers Ireland said Mr O'Connor was talking about "spending money the country does not have", while employers' group IBEC said any tax increases would undermine competitiveness and job creation.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he favoured a negotiated agreement and had asked LRC chief executive Kieran Mulvey to see if there was "room for negotiation".

Under questioning in the Dail from Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald, he insisted savings had to be made, adding he expected a response from the LRC within two weeks.

The initial deal rejected by unions ensured "those who paid and earned the most gave the most", he said, adding "87pc of public service workers below €65,000 were not having their core pay or salaries affected".

Earlier, opposition TDs Sean Fleming (FF) and Stephen Donnelly (Ind) along with Ms McDonald walked out of a Dail committee discussing this year's estimates.

The members of the sub-committee on Public Expenditure and Reform criticised the Government for factoring in €300m of savings into this year's estimates without stating where the savings would come from.

Irish Independent