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Croke Park deal ‘dead’ as unions reject pay cuts

April 17, 2013 • Ireland, News,

Siptu president Jack O'Connor had urged members to support the agreement. (Pic: File)

Siptu president Jack O’Connor had urged members to support the agreement. (Pic: File)

A senior trade union figure has urged the government not to confront public sector workers by forcing through €300 million in cuts.

With Croke Park II dead and the Congress executive defied, Siptu’s Jack O’Connor warned that the coalition will face a major battle if it tries to force through reforms.

He had recommended that Siptu members support the agreement.

But he issued the warning after members of powerful and influential unions opposed their negotiating teams and rejected plans to bring in longer working weeks, abolish premium rates and increments and cut the pay of people on more than €65,000.

“The result reflects the deep and well justified sense of grievance among working people throughout the country and public service workers in particular,” Mr O’Connor said.

“They feel that they are shouldering the lion’s share of the post-crisis adjustment while the wealthy are not contributing anything remotely approaching their capacity to do so.”

Among those to reject Croke Park II were the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), Unite, Mr O’Connor’s Siptu, the Civil and Public Services Union, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, the Irish Medical Organisation, the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants and the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union.

Impact supported the Croke Park II pay deal, as did the Public Service Executive Union and the Prison Officers’ Association.

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, gave no indication if the government would push through pay cuts as threatened during negotiations earlier this year.

He said he was disappointed the agreement did not have worker support but reiterated that he believed it was fair and balanced.

“This has undoubtedly been a difficult process.

It is unprecedented to ask public servants to sign up to an agreement that impacts negatively on their pay and conditions,” the minister said.

“But in the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves, I believe the Labour Relations Commission proposals are fair and balanced.”

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the result from a series of unions justified a sense of grievance over who was being asked to bear an unfair proportion of the country’s financial adjustment.

“The cumulative impact of five years of severe education cuts, the worst effects of which teachers were trying to mitigate for their pupils, also contributed to the outcome,” she said.

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin deputy leader, said the government should be turning to the runaway pay rates at the top of the civil and public service.

“Workers have signalled loud and clear, that these pay cuts are not fair, and that those on lower and middle incomes simply cannot afford to take any more. They have taken a stand against austerity, and I commend them for that,” she said.

“Any effort to impose across the board pay cuts through legislation will be opposed, and rightly so.”

Seán Fleming, Fianna Fáil spokesman on public spending, accused the government of using divide and conquer tactics in a bid to get the deal over the line.

Earlier, Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said it will stand with other unions against any government attempt to force through the plan.

“This has been a democratic process which the Government sought to disrupt through threats and bully tactics,” Mr Kelly said.

“The vote, though, is loud and clear that these proposals are bad for workers, bad for everyone that relies on money being spent and bad for Ireland.

“Unite has stood firm with other trade unions in presenting an honest case.

“We now have to follow through the wishes of our members and will do so by standing against any attempt by government to railroad imposed cuts through a technical device at the ICTU or legislation that would tear up any basis of trust that exists between worker and employer.”

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