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Unions told to accept cuts or face job losses

UNIONS face major battles with the Government after it made a new threat to impose compulsory redundancies if they do not accept cuts.

Brendan Howlin's department has warned that "immediate punitive action" will be taken against unions or any body that fights changes that have already been rubberstamped by state mediation bodies.

Internal union correspondence reveals the Government has threatened to act against those who fail to co-operate by imposing job losses if they refuse to redeploy to understaffed areas.

A letter circulated to the Civil, Public and Services Union's (CPSU) most senior members also reveals that unions will not be the only ones held to account.

It says Trinity College is likely to be "sanctioned heavily" with cuts to funding for failing to act on a Labour Court recommendation to reinstate three staff members it made redundant last year.

The court ruled that the redundancies were a breach of the Croke Park agreement.

A Trinity College spokesperson yesterday said it could not implement the court's recommendation, which it does not believe to be binding, "due to the precedent it would set and the risk of ensuing unsustainable costs".

However, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has warned of severe sanctions if there is any attempt to resist the state industrial relations bodies' decisions under the Croke Park deal.

The letter -- from General Secretary of the CPSU Eoin Ronayne to his executive committee -- shows an increasingly tough government attitude to the budgetary crisis.

Troubleshooting

The union, which represents 13,000 civil servants, warns some disputes that will come before the troubleshooting bodies shortly have the potential to topple the Croke Park agreement.

Mr Ronayne said the key battle ground would be a row between the Government and hospital consultants, which is going to the Labour Court for binding arbitration.

He said that significant changes in their contracts and payment structures were expected to be recommended.

He also predicted a clash with the Government if plans to pay lower-paid civil servants monthly rather than weekly proceed.

Mr Ronayne said he got a stark warning from Mr Howlin's Department of Public Expenditure and Reform when his union recently opposed a binding arbitration.

Mr Ronayne says Mr Howlin's department: "made it clear to me that the minister had decided that any rejection by the CPSU or any other body of the outcome from the binding provisions of Croke Park should be met with immediate punitive action. In particular, I was advised that we would cease to be protected from compulsory redundancy."

Irish Independent