Deal is best port in raging storm, says union
THE president of the largest union for public servants has admitted it did not get everything it wanted in the Croke Park deal on pay and reform.
But IMPACT's John Power said the proposed agreement was the "best and safest port in a raging economic storm" for the "good ship public services".
Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday insisted that the Government would stick by the Croke Park pay deal.
He said he had no plans to invoke a clause in the agreement that allows the Coalition to walk away if there is an unforeseen deterioration in the public finances.
"There is nothing we see at the moment that will cause that clause to be invoked," he said.
IMPACT and the other public sector unions wanted the €1bn Budget pay cuts and pension levy reversed but this is not guaranteed in the deal brokered with the Government.
The union's 65,000 members began voting this week on the proposals that could see pay cuts refunded -- but only if they deliver savings through major reforms. They also guarantee that their wages will not be slashed and that there will be no industrial action in the public sector for four years -- unless the parties breach the terms of the deal.
Speaking at the opening of the IMPACT conference last night, Mr Power said clarifications the union had sought on pay, pensions and job security had turned the deal that it had initially rejected into a "robust" agreement.
"For me, the question is not 'Did we achieve everything we wanted to?'" he told almost 700 delegates at the conference in Kilkenny. "The real question is 'Could we have achieved more by taking a different course of action?'
"I am satisfied that the answer to both questions is 'no'."
IMPACT's central executive committee rejected the agreement not long after it was brokered at Croke Park, despite the fact that the chief union negotiator was its general secretary, Peter McLoone.
At the time, general secretary designate Shay Cody described it as similar to being asked to "buy a pig in a poke".
But the union's senior officials changed their mind after getting clarifications from the Labour Court and Labour Relations Commission and recommended the deal to members.
However, Mr Power denied allegations by the "extreme political left" that there were divisions between elected representatives like himself and senior paid union officials.
Meanwhile, SIPTU does not plan industrial action in protest against existing government austerity measures but may strike if public sector wages are cut again, its leader said yesterday.
SIPTU wanted to avoid frightening investors and increasing state borrowing costs, but may have to show the Government it has squeezed working people too hard if public sector pay is cut again, general president Jack O'Connor said in an interview.
He said that SIPTU, with more than 200,000 members, knew that more spending cuts would be needed as Ireland emerged from one of the developed world's deepest and longest recessions.
Mr O'Connor added: "If you have a long industrial campaign. . . the interpretation of it externally would be that the Government wasn't able to honour its commitments and consequently the credibility of government bonds would be very much in question."