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Monday 20 November 2017

Unite to urge 'Yes' vote as it re-ballots members on pay deal

Martin Frawley

THE only union to formally reject the Haddington Road deal has reluctantly decided to re-ballot its members, recommending a Yes vote.

The decision by Unite caps a good week for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.

Virtually all the public sector unions scrambled on board the Haddington Road agreement in order to avoid deeper pay cuts imposed through legislation.

However, questions remain as to whether the €300m savings this year in the public service pay bill and €1bn in total by 2015 can be achieved given the concessions that were made to the unions in Haddington Road.

The Labour minister also risked damaging relations with the unions by introducing what was described as draconian legislation, which gives the Government sweeping powers to unilaterally change public sector workers' pay and conditions by the flick of a pen.

While the legislation worked as a big stick to get Haddington Road through, has it laid the seeds of industrial unrest once the economy recovers?

All but one of the 15 unions that rejected the original Croke Park II agreement have reversed their decision and accepted the softer pay cut proposals under Haddington Road negotiated by the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey.

In the case of nurses' union the INMO, it reversed a 96pc vote against Croke Park II into a 71pc vote in favour of Haddington Road.

Even the CPSU, who along with the nurses and the doctors walked out of the Croke Park II negotiations and recommended their members reject Haddington Road, voted narrowly in favour of the new agreement by 54.6pc.

CONCESSIONS

Unite, who have been vociferously opposed to Haddington Road, yesterday decided to re-ballot their members after considering the other unions' positions. The union is recommending acceptance but said it was "under protest". Voting will begin on Monday, with a result by July 12.

The two secondary teacher unions – the ASTI and the TUI – have also made a U-turn of sorts when they agreed to put Haddington Road out to a ballot, probably in September.

Previously, they had said there were insufficient improvements in Haddington Road over Croke Park II to put it to their members.

The country's biggest and most influential union, SIPTU, and the national teachers' union, the INTO, have also reversed their earlier decisions and accepted Haddington Road.

Mr Howlin is adamant that the planned savings will be achieved despite the concessions.

But the minister has dodged repeated questions to give the exact make-up of the savings, saying he will do so when all the ballots are in.

Irish Independent

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