Sunday 22 April 2018

Unions' ultimatum: Ministers warned of free-for-all on pay if there is no new deal

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Tony Gavin
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Tony Gavin

Anne-Marie Walsh

Unions have warned the Government to open up pay talks or face a free-for-all from public sector workers.

In the wake of the €50m Garda buy-off to stop an unprecedented strike, unions are now demanding a new deal to speed up pay rises.

Public Spending Minister Paschal Donohoe met with the leadership of the trade union movement on Monday.

The minister was bluntly told the Lansdowne Road Agreement is no longer sustainable following the Garda offer.

And Social Welfare Minister Leo Varadkar admitted the “context has changed” after the Garda offer worth €3,600 each.

A spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe said he met with the Public Service Committee of ICTU to discuss concerns about the Labour Court recommendation.

“Both parties agreed to continue to support collective pay policy agreement,” she said.

The spokeswoman added that there is to be further contact at ministerial and official level.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan says the Government can’t afford any more Garda-style deals.

But ministers continue to bicker over who picks up the bill for the deal.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s Department of Justice will have to find funds to cover much of the cost with an expectation further sums will be provided by the Department of Public Expenditure.

A source said this was likely to cover “the majority” of the cost, but did not rule out the need for Justice to seek assistance from other departments.

Ministers are set to thrash out how to fund the proposed offer to end the Garda dispute.

Today’s Cabinet meeting comes after Mr Noonan conceded the Labour Court recommendations to resolve the row were “more generous than was anticipated”. And he warned they are “simply not affordable if that was extended across the board”.

The Government is likely to sign off on the proposals, with sources pointing out that ministers last week reiterated their long-standing respect for the rulings of the Labour Court.

But several ministers, including Mr  Varadkar and Education Minister Richard Bruton, have said the funding can not come from their departments.

Last night, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) published details of the agreement and what it means to members of the force.

Three strikes planned by gardaí on the remaining Fridays of this month have been called off.

The strikes are suspended pending the vote of members of the Garda Representative Association on a deal worth €3,600 each. The GRA central executive committee decided to suspend the work stoppages at a meeting yesterday.

It had already suspended what would have been the first strike in Garda history, last Friday, in a dispute over pay rises and industrial relations rights.

The association will now ballot its 10,500 members on a Labour Court recommendation that could resolve the row from next Monday to November 28.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) will meet this morning to discuss the Labour Court recommendation, which it described as a victory.

The AGSI sought a pay rise of 16.5pc, the right to negotiate its members’ pay directly with the Government, as well as the right to strike.

Labour Court proposals, worth an estimated €3,600 per garda, mean gardaí would get a €500 increase in their rent allowance from January 1.

In addition, the allowance would became part of their basic pay from that date, pushing up their overtime and premium pay. They would also get a €15 premium payment for each day of annual leave in recognition that they can sometimes be forced to give up holidays to attend court.

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