Fears of further cuts in pay if public service talks fail
THE chairman of talks aimed at resolving the dispute between the Government and public sector unions has warned that pay and pensions may be slashed again unless there is a deal.
Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey, said the "Sword of Damocles" was now hanging over the incomes of the country's 300,000 public servants.
He warned that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had not indicated where the "sword" might fall when the Government seeks up to €3bn in savings and cutbacks this year.
"If there is no agreement, it may begin to fall again where it fell previously," he said.
Unions are currently seeking a reversal of the pension levy and the €1bn pay cuts that were announced in the December Budget.
Speaking at a Public Affairs Ireland conference in Dublin yesterday, Mr Mulvey said the certainties to which public servants had been used since the Sean Lemass era had "begun to be severely questioned".
Commenting on the industrial relations climate, he described it as a "free for all" with no "comfort blankets" in the form of social partnership.
Mr Mulvey said the national pay deal had been "abandoned" to a large degree. The whole world had been "turned upside down" in the last 18 months and a "terrible beauty born", with disaffection "manifesting itself" among unions.
Meanwhile, sources indicated last night that some reforms had become stumbling blocks at the talks. These include the 8am to 8pm working week that management wants to introduce in the health sector.
The Government and unions aim to reach agreement before Easter, as some of the unions have already served notice of strike action after this.