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Wednesday 16 October 2019

U-turn on 'anti-family' policies that sank Croke Park ballot

Michael Brennan and Fionnan Sheahan

THE Government has done a U-turn on proposed changes to family friendly policies, which it is believed caused women with children to vote down Croke Park II.

Agreement on a reworked deal is edging closer and teachers will get a last-minute chance to get on board next week or else face pay cuts.

Ten unions that were opposed to the original deal are now signalling they will sign up following talks at the LRC under chief executive Kieran Mulvey.

The large No vote first time around in sectors which employ big numbers of women – such as teaching, health and clerical positions – was partly attributed to the deal's adverse effect on childcare.

The Coalition has now reversed some of the measures on the disruption to the childminding arrangements of parents that possibly brought the first deal down.

Staff working less than 50pc of their full-time hours as part of a job-sharing arrangement will now keep this entitlement. The Croke Park II deal had required them to raise their working hours to at least 50pc.

Senior staff at "assistant principal level" in the civil service and grade eight in the HSE and local authorities can hold on to their entitlement to flexi-time – but it will be shut off for new entrants.

And it believed these benefits will spread to other areas as other unions will seek the concession.

Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey said he believes he has agreement in principle from 10 unions to sign up to the new Croke Park deal.

The Government has set a deadline of Friday for completion of the talks, although the teacher unions are outside this timeframe as they are currently balloting for industrial action.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin briefed his colleagues on progress in the talks yesterday.

The Government is holding off on bringing in laws to impose pay cuts on public sector workers as the negotiations continue. But there is believed to be little hope of all three teacher unions coming on board.

The items expected to be on the table for negotiation include:

• Alleviation of pay cuts for those on over €65,000.

• Restoration of increments.

• Movement on cuts to supervision and substitution payments.

The primary teachers' union, the INTO, has the best chance of striking a deal, but is expected to play hardball after its leadership failed to recommend acceptance of the original deal.

Of the secondary school unions, the ASTI has a tradition of being militant, while the TUI is blocked from entering talks by a motion passed at its conference. Informal contact has been under way with these unions.

The Government is insisting the €300m target will still be reached.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he hopes the public sector pay talks to salvage the Croke Park deal will be successful.

Mr Kenny told the Dail it was still the Government's intention to have a "negotiated, overall" agreement with the unions.

"We value the work of our public servants," he said.

Meanwhile, the two main garda representative groups have signalled they will accept the new pay deal worked out at the LRC ahead of a ballot on the proposals over the next six weeks.

The Garda Representative Association said last night it cautiously welcomed the proposals.

Irish Independent

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