| 2.2°C Dublin

Drama as unions cut a 3.0am deal with government

Agreement has been reached between the Government and trade unions over public sector pay and reform.

The deal, which will now have to be put to a ballot of union members, was struck in the early hours of the morning following lengthy negotiations at Croke Park.

The Government has committed itself to not implementing any further pay cuts for State workers before 2014 in return for significant reforms in the sector.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen welcomed the 3.0am outcome, saying it would provide confidence and stability.

Mr Cowen said the deal covers a range of important transformation issues in health, education, local government, justice, defence, the civil service and State agencies.

Dara Calleary, the Minister of State with responsibility for Public Service Transformation, also hailed the deal.

"It is vital that we maximise the contribution that the public service can make to sustainable economic renewal," Mr Calleary said.

The deal, which was brokered by the Labour Relations Commission, means the unions will co-operate with wide-ranging measures aimed at cost saving.

Among the key elements are proposals allowing for workers to be redeployed throughout the public sector as the need arises.

A review of the implementation of the agreement will take place next spring. It will analyse the extent of savings secured and the sum will be independently verified by an implementation body. If sufficient savings are identified, priority for reimbursement of pay levels will be given to staff earning less than €35,000 a year.

But it is not clear what proportion of lost salary would be reimbursed and by what date.

Less favourable pension arrangements will also be brought in for new public service employees from January next year.

Measures to reduce staff numbers are to continue, with the likelihood that a voluntary redundancy scheme will be introduced.

However, the Government has promised not to bring in compulsory redundancies if staff comply with its proposals for redeployment.

Implementation of the agreement is subject to the country's financial position not deteriorating further.

Mr Cowen said: "We now have an agreed shared vision for transformation in all sectors of the public service, and an agreed path on how it is to be achieved."

The talks reconvened at 7pm yesterday, having gone on through the previous night.

The union for lower-paid civil servants, the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), which is threatening strike action at the Passport Office if the talks fail, had been insisting pay cuts be reversed this year.

However, this will not now happen.

The Health Service Executive had made it clear it could not implement its service plan without getting reforms.