Friday 15 November 2019

Finally, signs of a pact appear on horizon

Anne-Marie Walsh

THE slow bicycle race that has been going on at talks on a new Croke Park deal has finally got a push uphill.

Little has appeared to happen at the discussions since the fanfare that surrounded the high-profile opening of talks last month.

At that meeting, the Government gave unions a vague outline of the main areas of their earnings that face a hit in its bid to get €1bn savings.

None of them were basic pay – apart from for high earners – but practically everything else is under scrutiny, including premium pay allowances, working hours, and increments.

The Government did not say exactly what size the cuts would be, or how much each of the measures would raise in terms of hard cash.

A month down the line, and most of the sections of the public sector are none the wiser.

Unions for staff in each section of the public sector have attended separate meetings with the management side, but still got little more detail.

The unions that have the power to get a deal through are represented by four key figures. They are IMPACT's Shay Cody, SIPTU's Patricia King, Tom Geraghty of the PSEU and the INTO's Sheila Nunan.

While the rest of the unions scratched their heads, they have been hammering out the chief elements of a national deal they can sell to their troops, and avoid the drastic option threatened by the Taoiseach of unilateral pay cuts all round.

So far, IMPACT has only pointed to one of the proposals as a deal-breaker.

It will not accept an agreement that will mean an extra hour's work a day for all public servants, and it appears the government side may be softening on this.

They have sent a message to staff warning them that they are caught between a rock and a hard place. In other words, that pay cuts are the alternative.

Pay cuts for the top earners and cuts to 'gold-plated' pensioners have been tabled, and promises that some of the harsher measures may eventually be reversed are likely to be part of the final pact.

The chief union and government figures will be hoping this will be enough to make most of the country's 300,000 public servants sign up.

Irish Independent

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