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New deal won't touch core pay but it will help guarantee industrial peace

TO get the rabid, right-wing, public sector bashing, Blueshirt, young buck, Fine Gael backbenchers on board, the Government is going to call its new deal with the public sector after a posh southside Dublin stadium they can relate to.

"Yeah, to keep those lads happy, we'll call it the Lansdowne Road Agreement," a wag in government circles observed yesterday.

The Croke Park deal is about to bring in far more codes under its remit as the Government aims to change the rules of the game on the reform agenda.

The motivation behind the re-opening of the Croke Park Agreement is two-fold: to extract another €1bn in savings from the pay bill and to bring in further reforms to make the public sector more efficient, effective, productive and provide a better service to the public.

A re-opening of the deal was on the cards, as revealed in the Irish Independent two weeks ago, with ministers and officials alike believing it would be necessary to bridge the gap in the public finances.

Despite the desire of some TDs, particularly on the Fine Gael benches, to tear up the agreement and just hack away at the pay bill with across-the-board cuts, halting of increments and reversal of allowances, the Coalition has opted to preserve the industrial peace.

By signing up to a revised Croke Park, unions will get a guarantee of no further cuts to core pay for the next three years.

"It gives the Government a much stronger hand on increments and allowances. For the unions, core pay is essential," a minister commented last night.

The Labour Party will also benefit from the breathing of new life into Croke Park.

Provided the desired level of savings are extracted, Fine Gael will go along with it.

The key element of the equation will be more working hours coming into the system from full-time workers as this introduces knock-on savings.

It is by no means painless, but it allows savings on overtime, premium pay, agency workers, payments being bought out, downsizing faster and reducing the numbers of workers in the public service.

The Government will also be looking at bringing in better ways to measure the performance of workers in the system – for the good and the bad.

Irish Independent