Wednesday 21 March 2018

Unions cannot put gun to Government's head over strikes - Ibec chief

Danny McCoy: critical
Danny McCoy: critical

Anne Marie Walsh

The leader of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) has accused unions of putting a "gun to the Government's head" after the country's largest trade union threatened industrial action if it fails to hold New Year pay talks.

Ibec Director General Danny McCoy was commenting after Siptu leader Jack O'Connor demanded that fresh pay talks on accelerating refunds of pay cuts for public servants are announced by next Thursday. The union leader wants the negotiations to start by February 1.

Mr McCoy said it was understandable there would be a desire for pay cuts to be restored, but there had to be evidence they were warranted.

"Putting a gun to the Government's head for a quick response is a bit unreasonable," he said. "A reasonableness is required here given the resources available to the Government, and many competing claims including requirements for taxation cuts and investment in infrastructure."

In a letter to members, Impact General Secretary Shay Cody said he told Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe that most public servants wanted pay restoration to be managed through a negotiated agreement. But Mr Cody warned this "would not be possible if certain groups - whether inside or outside Lansdowne Road - were treated more favourably than others".

Mr Donohoe is expected to seek Cabinet approval for the announcement of a "timeline" for fresh pay talks after a meeting on Tuesday. However, he remains committed to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Meanwhile Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said that taxpayers and the people who depend on public services must remain at the heart of public pay issues as much as those who work in the public service.

"The Cabinet and myself are absolutely focused on making the right decisions in relation to public pay for all of our country," he said. "We recognise the needs of those who work within our public services.

"We also recognise the needs of all those who depend on our public services."

The minister refused to speak directly about SIPTU demands for fresh pay talks, stating: "What is on the agenda at the moment is the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

"I have made very clear the support that I and the Cabinet have for collective pay agreements for the role that they can play in allowing our country to deal with both risks and opportunities that we face.

"I've already outlined a framework and a time-frame within which I will have discussions in relation to a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement," he added.

"But the view of Government is very clear in relation to where we stand now.

"I have acknowledged the consequences of the recent Labour Court recommendation for all who work in our public services.

"But I'm very clear that the Lansdowne Road Agreement was negotiated. It is in place. And the Government will be supporting that agreement."

Irish Independent

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