Minister accuses main nursing union of leaving 40,000 members 'high and dry'
A MINISTER has accused the main nursing union of leaving its 40,000 members "high and dry" by pulling out of talks on a new Croke Park deal.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) failed to get a concession won by education unions for young teachers after walking out on the fraught pay talks.
He said this concession would enable young teachers, who earn 10pc less than their colleagues, to eventually get equal pay.
The comments are likely to anger the nursing union, which has boycotted a Health Service Executive (HSE) scheme for graduate nurses that pays 20pc less than previous starting salaries.
Mr Varadkar also claimed garda bodies had not protected their members, unlike army and prison officers, who took a "very pragmatic approach" to the talks.
But garda representative associations claim they were not offered a similar deal to prison officers, whose premium pay is untouched.
Prior to brokering their own deal, the prison officers had been campaigning alongside the gardai against the premium pay cuts as members of the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance.
Mr Varadkar said there would be "no cruel and unusual punishment" for public servants who reject the Croke Park II deal, but unions who walked out of talks will not get special concessions or rewards.
He said concessions granted to unions who stayed at talks included a pension levy reduction and a grace period for high earners who retire before August next year.
However, Mr Varadkar did not say what concessions would be withheld from those who did not support the agreement.
"I'm glad that quite a number of unions decided, rather than performing for the media, to protect their members and you can see the difference in what's been achieved," he said.
"The teachers stayed in the talks and they have now achieved equalisation of pay levels for young teachers who are new to the teaching service. The nurses didn't do that and have achieved nothing for young nurses. They've left them high and dry."
Mr Varadkar, right, said it was too early to say whether nurses represented by the INMO would get a different deal to nurses represented by SIPTU, which stayed at the talks. He said he expected the deal would be accepted by a majority of unions represented by the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
He said he hoped the INMO would accept a majority decision, as otherwise it would have to go on strike.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted no unions were victimised for walking out of talks.
He urged union members to "look at the bigger picture" in considering the proposals.
Meanwhile, the Government has confirmed that €1bn savings targeted under the new Croke Park deal over the next three years will be reduced by €100m in "incentives" to unions.
Mr Varadkar said just over €100m will be given in add-backs and concessions to public servants, whose unions stayed within the talks process.