1 April 2010 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

Marathon talks conclude between unions and Government

Public sector deal agreed but not done

TRADE UNION leaders and the Irish government concluded a draft agreement on a package of public sector and pay reforms at 3am on Tuesday morning under the umbrella of the Labour Relations Commission after two weeks of intensive negotiations.
Unfortunately for the negotiators, the draft was unveiled just hours before Taoiseach Brian Cowen revealed to the Dáil what a millstone the billion-euro bailouts for the banks by NAMA (the National Asset Management Agency) will be around the necks of ordinary PAYE taxpayers and their families for generations to come.
Sinn Féin has said the public sector pay deal “raises more questions than answers” for already-struggling workers and their families [see below] and the agreement has yet to be balloted on by trade unionists.
Some of the elements of the draft agreement (http://www.impact.ie/iopen24/-t-297_300_544.html) headlined by negotiators are:-

  • The government has undertaken not to impose any further pay cuts on state employees before 2014 if extensive reforms in work practices and conditions of employment are implemented throughout the public service;
  • A mechanism for the reversal of existing pay cuts over time if reforms deliver verified savings;
  • Measures to reduce staff numbers will continue and there may also be a ‘voluntary exit scheme’;
  • There will be no compulsory redundancies if staff comply with redeployment across the public sector;
  • The government intends to maintain its moratorium on recruitment;
  • Promotion and incremental progression will be linked in all cases to performance;
  • An ‘industrial peace’ clause and an agreed mechanism to quickly resolve disagreements about the agreement.

Underpinning any progress on terms favourable to workers, though, is that “implementation of the agreement is subject to there being no currently unforeseen budgetary deterioration”.

With just 12 hours having elapsed as the article was being written, grassroots’ reaction to the draft agreement was still being considered.
IMPACT General Secretary Peter McLoone said:
“We know that the economic climate will continue to be extremely difficult, but I believe these proposals hold out the hope that our public services can be better managed and delivered, and that public servants will see some certainty over their pay, jobs and pensions, with the prospect of restoring pay cuts over time as reforms deliver real verified savings.”
But even the right-wing Evening Herald newspaper recognised that the deal has an even bigger credibility gap to bridge.
“The real battle now will be in selling this package to union members,” the Sir Anthony O’Reilly Irish Independent group paper said.
“These are ordinary workers struggling with already-reduced wages and higher mortgages.
“As they, along with other taxpayers, prepare to provide billions to bail out the banks, the timing of this ‘hard sell’ package may now prove even trickier.
“The battle to formulate some kind of proposed deal may have been won – but the war is far from over.”

Public sector deal ‘raises more questions than answers’, says Sinn Féin

SINN FÉIN said the public sector pay deal agreed by the Irish government and trade unions “raises more questions than answers” for workers and their families.
Sinn Féin Workers’ Rights spokesperson Martin Ferris said the deal is flawed in that pay cuts for the lowest-paid public service workers are not being reversed. He said the other elements of the deal so far outlined raise more questions than answers.
“While there are, apparently, to be no further pay cuts, the deal is flawed in failing to reverse the pay cuts for even the lowest-paid public service workers. It is ambiguous, to say the least, on whether any of the pay cuts will ever be reversed.”
The Sinn Féin TD said that public sector workers and their families, struggling to live on lower incomes, some of them having lost their homes or facing repossession, “will look askance at a deal that will leave them not one cent better off”.  He asked:
“Where is the guarantee that there will be no more cuts for people on social welfare? Where is the commitment to no more cuts in the public services provided by public servants?
“Changes in work practices which allow for more flexibility and help provide improved services to the public are welcome,” Martin Ferris said. “However, if this is done in the context of a continuing recruitment embargo and ongoing cutbacks then the positive changes will be wiped out. In the area of health, for example, the recruitment embargo is deepening the crisis in our hospitals; in local authorities, it is reducing services all the time.
“The deal as so far outlined raises more questions than answers. Public service workers and the wider public will need to know a lot more about how this agreement is to be interpreted and implemented before giving a final verdict.”


Ryanair boss branded a ‘liar’ by High Court judge

RYANAIR cheap airline and anti-union boss Michael O’Leary has been publicly branded a liar by a Dublin High Court judge.
Justice Peter Kelly ordered O’Leary to write a letter of apology for lying in a letter to Transport Minister Noel Dempsey in February. O’Leary falsely claimed that the judge publicly criticised the minister at an earlier hearing over an “inexcusable delay to appoint an appeal panel” to consider appeals against proposed new passenger charges at Dublin Airport.
The judge ordered O’Leary to write a letter to the minister to correct his statement. And, he added, the letter must be “clear, unequivocal, unreserved and without any gloss”.

The Ryanair boss’s earlier apology to the court was described by the judge as “pathetic”.
Court reporters said that the normally brash and high-spirited O’Leary was “visibly shaken”.

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