Health staff will get sweetener to back Croke Park deal
Coalition hopes move will firm up agreement
UNIONS will be offered a new sweetener for thousands of health support staff in a bid to get the new Croke Park deal over the line.
The Government is sending out a "side letter" to unions confirming that trainee support staff will eventually be eligible to get on the same pay scale as their colleagues.
The trainee scheme, which aims to reduce the need for outsourcing, will initially be rolled out at three hospitals.
It will enable new recruits, who would normally be paid 10pc less than existing staff, to work as direct employees before eventually going on to the appropriate pay scale.
The government-backed trainee scheme will be seen as another inducement to encourage state employees to back the proposed deal, as the campaign against it gains momentum.
However, Minister Brendan Howlin's department of Public Expenditure and Reform has denied claims by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar that €100m of its €1bn savings target will be given as incentives to unions.
A department spokesperson said this statement was wrong and the agreement would achieve the full €1bn saving over three years.
Meanwhile, unions opposing the new Croke Park deal have vowed to fight government attempts to slash its pay bill, even if most unions back the agreement.
Four unions representing 70,000 workers indicated they will enter "unprecedented territory" by refusing to accept a majority decision of Irish Congress of Trade Unions' (ICTU) affiliates. They are the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the Irish Medical Organisation, the Civil, Public and Services Union, and UNITE, who pulled out of talks on the proposed agreement at the eleventh hour.
The practice of putting national deals to a vote by the Congress unions has been a cornerstone of industrial relations for decades.
The majority decision of the unions is usually taken as final, even by unions who have voted against agreements in the past.
But the four unions said they would be guided by the views of their members rather than the ICTU's Public Services Committee's decision.
It is also understood that a number of unions will consider motions to pull out of ICTU at their annual conferences from next month.
The General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Liam Doran, said that the reaction he was getting back from workers, who faced a €4,500 a year reduction in pay, was one of "disbelief" that the Government thought they had it to give.
Meanwhile, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) is the latest union to recommend rejection of the Croke Park 11 proposals.