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Slash wages and we will strike – unions issue warning after members reject deal

MORE than 290,000 public servants will mount a campaign of industrial action if the Government slashes their pay.

Twenty public sector unions have left the Coalition in no doubt of their intentions if it cuts wages without agreement.

The unions' threat came after roughly two to one of their members formally rejected the Croke Park II deal.

The Government has warned it will reduce their pay by up to 7pc in a bid to reduce the payroll by €1bn if the agreement did not pass.

It has not clarified whether it will act on this threat since the agreement was rejected.

Labour Party backbenchers are believed to be strongly in favour of a negotiated settlement.

Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' Public Services Committee, Tom Geraghty, said unions were in a situation like never before.

"I don't think there's any doubt that if the Government moves to unilaterally cut the pay of public servants, that there will be a campaign of industrial action," said Mr Geraghty. "I don't think there's any dispute about that."

He said there had been no correspondence from the Government about re-opening talks.

Mr Geraghty said he had no idea if the Government was interested in "tweaking" the existing proposals in a bid to encourage unions to get the rejected deal over the line.

The union leader, who is also general secretary of the Public Service Executive Union, was speaking after a meeting of the union's umbrella body to declare their official position on the agreement. The chances of the deal being ratified were scuppered on Tuesday when the largest public sector union, SIPTU, rejected it.

The proposals, would have meant cuts to basic pay of 5.5pc and above for those earning over €65,000 a year.

Staff also faced cuts to premium pay and overtime, a freeze on increments for some, and delays for others, as well as an increase in working hours.

IMPACT, which backed the deal, warned it will resist any bid to impose worse cuts to members' pay than they faced under the proposals.

It said the Government should know that "punishing unions that voted to accept the proposals is not an option".

The union forecast that the most likely scenario is that the Coalition will try to alter the package that has been rejected by "clarifying" elements of it.

However, spokesman Bernard Harbor said the imposition of pay cuts will be a possibility if agreement cannot be reached.

"Right now, the ball is in the Government's court," he said.

"We will resist any imposition of worse measures, and we will not accept any change to the package that puts IMPACT members at a disadvantage in order to please others."

The Executive Council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also warned it was committed to resist any attempt by the Government to impose pay cuts.

Paddy Power is offering odds of 11/8 that SIPTU will be the first public sector union to strike, ahead of teacher unions TUI and ASTI at 4/1 and 5/1.

Irish Independent