Saturday 20 January 2018

Coalition gets industrial peace in public sector for just €15m

Michael Brennan Deputy Poltical Editor

THE Government is going to get industrial peace with the public sector unions for a price of just €15m.

The Irish Independent has learnt that the savings from the new Haddington Road Agreement this year are due to amount to €285m.

This is just €15m less than the €300m of savings in the Croke Park II deal that was rejected.

A government source said the €15m would be recouped over the lifetime of the three-year agreement. "It would be a madman strategy to throw it all away for the sake of just a few extra million," the source said.

The biggest saving for the Government in the deal is the agreement by most of the country's 290,000 public sector employees to work extra hours for free. This is set to deliver an extra 18 million hours over the next three years – the equivalent of recruiting 10,000 extra staff.

Many public sector unions are balloting their members on the deal, with the threat of harsher pay cuts being imposed from July 1 if it is rejected.

A senior source close to the negotiations said that it would not be difficult to recoup this year's €15m savings shortfall over the next two-and-a-half years. The source said there were many savings contained in the agreement – such as the plan to allow nurses to carry out more work previously carried out by junior doctors.

"That will cut down on overtime for junior doctors," the source said.

UNPOPULAR

The fact that the savings target was going to fall below €300m was publicly flagged by Junior Minister for Public Expenditure Brian Hayes just as the negotiations were nearing conclusion. It is understood this was a deliberate government strategy to demonstrate to the unions that changes to the most unpopular measures were possible.

And it was also a conscious decision to have the announcement made by a Fine Gael minister rather than Labour's Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin to show the whole Government was backing the move.

In the deal, cuts to premium pay and overtime for gardai and nurses have been scaled back or scrapped.

But the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is still insisting that the full €300m savings target will be achieved this year.

Irish Independent

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