Friday 23 March 2018

Government should not look to 'extract more' from workers - SIPTU president

Jack O’Connor of Siptu. Photo: Tony Gavin
Jack O’Connor of Siptu. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

One of the country's most senior trade union officials has refused to rule out industrial action should public sector pay talks break down.

SIPTU president Jack O'Connor also warned​ while there is a need for improvement in the "standard of public service", the Government should not be looking to "extract more" from workers.

Instead, the ​current round of ​talks must commit "more resources" to the public sector, and restore pay levels ​for lower paid workers.

He said the abolition of the pension levy and lifting of the recruitment moratorium in certain sectors will be the priority of union negotiators.

The ​Government's "narrow, traditional interpretation" of productivity will not achieve the "most efficient public service."

"The root to optimising efficiency in terms of the utilisation of people, is not about extracting more effort from individuals.

"It's about incentivising people, how you reward them, and offering them the prospect of fulfilling careers.

"That entails training, development, and pay as well.

"I don't see there is any ​more room for extracting more from individuals in the traditional sense.

"It would be counter productive for the Government to expect that.

"It would be demoralising because there is a huge level of demoralisation in the public service.

"What's needed now is to offer some inspiration and hope to people.

"We've had a degree of traditional productivity yielded in the public service that's  unparalleled ​  ​  anywhere.

"You don't get efficiency without ensuring that the level of resources committed to the task are equal to it.

"And at present the Government are not committing the level of resources that's required."

Read more: First phase of public sector pay talks close after just fifteen minutes

The talks must be in accord with the commitment that is enshrined in the Croke Park Agreement, and reiterated in the Haddington Road Agreement, he told

"This​ is to the effect that when the economy recovers there will be a reinstatement, and lower paid people will be prioritised in that process.

"To comply with that would be a red line issue. It would be unwise of me to set down red lines other than that."

Asked if there is a percentage figure which is regarded as a minimum on the union side, he said: "Not that I'm aware of. But w​e ​do ​believe creating the most efficient public service we can possibly have should be the aspirations of both sides.

"We must remember peoples' pay has been reduced by an average of 15pc.

"Meanwhile, the number of people employed in the service had been reduced by over 15pc.

"What also must be taken into account is that ​the number of people who are being provided with a service, has increased by almost 300,000.

"I doubt very much that any institution in the private sector could claim to have achieved productivity on that scale."

Asked if the possibility of any form of industrial action has been ruled out should the talks fail, he said: "The focus at the present time is on the road to reaching agreement from which the people who work in the public service, and people who depend on it, can feel a good deal has been done.

"I don't think there's any other focus other than that at this point in time."

He was speaking at the launch of 'A City in Civil War: Dublin 1921-1924' by Padraig Yeates in Dublin's Liberty Hall.

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