Sunday 18 March 2018

Major boost for 'Yes' vote as union leader supports deal

Brian McDonald and Anne-Marie Walsh

A MAJOR push for a public sector 'Yes' vote on the battered Croke Park deal gathered momentum last night.

The leader of the trade union movement has thrown his weight behind the draft agreement, while the largest public sector union has signalled it may soften its stance.

The General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, David Begg, told a civil servants' conference that the proposed agreement is the best available.

Mr Begg told mid-ranking public servants their negotiators got everything possible from the talks and, while he did not wish to pre-empt their own deliberations, he did not believe going back to the table would change anything.

And IMPACT -- whose central executive committee rejected the deal last week -- announced it wants clarifications on the deal, in a move that could help get it over the line.

Yesterday's boost for the agreement came after SIPTU gave it a lifeline by backing the beleaguered deal on Tuesday.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU), Mr Begg said the reason unions went back into talks with the Government was because there was a solid basis for negotiation.

That basis was that the money deducted in the pay cut would ultimately be returned in a bona fide way at a pace to be negotiated.

"I had to be sure that was the situation. And I am sure that is the situation," he said.

Mr Begg added: "Some people are saying we could renegotiate all of this. The one thing I don't believe, by the way, is that anything was left on the table by the negotiators.

"Whether it's good, bad or indifferent, or whether it's acceptable or not, I think they got everything that was available to get."

And the president of the PSEU, Fiona Lee, said that vital guarantees had been won in the talks with the Government and that was why the union executive was recommending acceptance.


She admitted the choices presented to public servants were not perfect but said there was no agreement last December to look at the restoration of pay or certainty that current pay levels could be protected. Nor was there a guarantee of job security. Now there were agreements in these areas.

The drive to get the agreement through comes as balloting of the country's 300,000 public servants is due to begin over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, in a statement last night, IMPACT said it had postponed its ballot to seek clarification on the Croke Park proposals from mediator Kieran Mulvey.

"The IMPACT CEC remains committed to a negotiated settlement," said a spokesperson.

"But the lack of clarity over certain aspects of the proposed deal remains problematic."

Irish Independent

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