Union leaders slam 'Alice in Wonderland' pay proposals
THE leaders of a union representing 6,000 public service workers yesterday dismissed the draft government pay deal as an "Alice in Wonderland" fantasy.
The national executive of UNITE condemned what it called "pie-in-the-sky promises" in the Croke Park deal, putting the future of the proposal in serious doubt.
The move follows the shock decision by Impact's governing body to reject the "pay for change" deal earlier this week.
UNITE's national executive will confirm its 'no' recommendation on Monday ahead of a ballot of its members in the health and education sectors, state bodies, local authorities and civil service.
The battered deal could face further obstacles next week if the leaders of the country's biggest union, SIPTU, which has 70,000 public sector members, throw it out.
It is also unlikely to have an easy passage at a meeting of the executive committee of the Civil, Public and Services Union, which was at the centre of recent disruption at the passport office in Dublin, at its meeting on Monday.
Some senior union sources told the Irish Independent that they already believe the deal is "dead in the water".
So far, the deal has won the support of the national teachers' union, the INTO, and civil service unions the PSEU and AHCPS.
In a statement yesterday, the AHCPS, which represents over 3,000 senior public servants but did not take part in the unions' campaign of industrial action, said the deal was the best that could be achieved in the current climate.
In the 'no' camp are the leadership of UNITE and Impact, as well as two of the main teacher unions, the TUI and ASTI.
Last night, UNITE claimed the new deal would further damage the economy.
"The promise of 'jam tomorrow' is wholly undermined by the actions taking place in banking and insurance," said the union's Irish regional secretary, Jimmy Kelly.
"The agreement seeks to copperfasten this Government's misguided policy of taking money out of the real economy to prop up the very institutions that caused our economic meltdown in the first place.
"This is like Alice in Wonderland and the membership of UNITE and other trade unions needs to stand up and inject a dose of common sense."
Meanwhile the 180-member central executive of the secondary teachers' union, the ASTI, unanimously voted to recommend rejection of the deal in Galway yesterday.
The executive has the power to reject it out of hand -- but agreed to put it to a postal ballot of the union's 18,500 members. The three teacher-union ballots will take several weeks to organise, and it will be well into next month before the results are known.
In the meantime, the decision of SIPTU's National Executive Council on Tuesday will be crucial to the collective verdict of the public sector unions' executive bodies.
But the deal will ultimately be decided by public servants when they start balloting in the next few weeks.
They could decide to ignore their union leaders' recommendations, although these are likely to influence undecided workers.
The final result is likely to be decided by an aggregate vote of members of the unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' Public Services Committee.
The draft pay deal guarantees that public servants' pay will not be slashed again before 2014 and they could get refunds of pay cuts, once they deliver verifiable savings through major reforms and there are no future economic shocks.
The first wage review would take place next spring. But unions opposed to the deal claim there are too many uncertainties.