Wednesday 29 January 2020

Civil servants won't wait for pay increase, union warns

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Caroline Crawford

Civil servants won’t wait to 2018 for a further pay restoration, the President of the Public Service Executive Union, PSEU, has warned.

Maria Ryan also hit out at the opening of recruitment to members of the public as a “slap in the face” for its members.

Ms Ryan was addressing delegates at the PSEU conference in Galway where she also discussed the possible formation of a mega union involving the PSEU, IMPACT and he Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU)

Ms Ryan said members has suffered numerous cuts and substantial disimprovements in conditions since 2009 describing the increases in working hours as “a particularly bitter pill to swallow”.

She said the Landsdowne Road Agreement was a start to unwinding these impositions but called for the unwinding of FEMPI legislation to be accelerated.

“If the emergency is over then FEMPI should also be over. The issue now is how quickly the impositions of that legislation can be undone.

“Our message is crystal clear. If this country’s economy continues to grow at the healthy rate that we are witnessing currently, it is not sustainable to maintain the imposition of emergency legislation and the pace at which the unfair impositions on Public Servants are lifted will have to be accelerated.

“Against a background of growth of 7pc – 8pc, Public Servants cannot be expected to wait until 2018 to get some redress to this,” she said.

She acknowledged that external factors including a possible Brexit and the delay in forming a Government could adversely impact on growth.

However, she added: “Public Servants were dumped on when the economy and public finances were in trouble and we are entitled to expect to see the benefits of the recovery, sooner rather than later.”

Ms Ryan welcomed growth in career opportunities in the past year but hit out at the decision to open recruitment to public competition, saying senior managers had shown “total disrespect to their own staff” with the move.

“In particular, the decision of the Secretaries-General to seek that 60pc of the AP positions in the Civil Service be opened up in this way was a slap in the face for the hard working existing staff who had no career opportunities for close to seven years,” she said to applause from delegates.

“The fact that the Union had to resort to arbitration to ensure a degree of fairness for serving staff reflects badly on the attitude of senior management towards their own staff. This insult was delivered on the pretext of so called ‘reform’; a much misused term utilised far too often to justify bad behaviour,” she added.

She said the outcome of the arbitration of one-third open, one-third interdepartmental and one-third internally within the Departments, was a significant improvement on the original proposal but warned that the union expected “another attempt at undermining the position of serving staff” next year.

Ms Ryan praised members for continuing to deliver public services through a background of cuts and chronic under-investment.

She said the economic turnaround provided the opportunity “once and for all, to stop peddling the myth that it is compatible to have a society of low taxes with high quality public services and we can decide to allocate available resources to deliver the services that our citizens require.”

Ms Ryan also discussed the possible formation of the New Union Project, by merging PSEU with IMPACT, and the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) into one union serving 80,000 civil servants.

She said it was arguably the most important decision to face the union.

She said the PSEU had initiated exploratory discussions with four unions however the AHCPS and Veterinary Officers Association opted out of the talks.

“The potential offered was an outcome of one Civil Service union which would be a part of a wider Public Service organisation in circumstances where, increasingly, pay and conditions of employment are determined through Public Service wide negotiations, so that, as the employer moves increasingly to centralise negotiations, we can offer greater cohesion on our side, minimise disunity and respond with strength,” she added.

To applause she told delegates the union would resist attempts to have pay determined by outside bodies rather than collective bargaining.

“We will not give up our rights. We want our pay and conditions to be negotiated through our unions with our employers. Any system that attempt to water down that system will be resisted,” she added.

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