Preliminary talks on public service agreement held

Tuesday 15 January 2013 12.06
The meeting was described as a 'listening exercise'
The meeting was described as a 'listening exercise'

The opening negotiations on a new public service agreement have ended after a meeting between management and unions.

It is understood that management outlined its agenda for the talks, including widespread cuts in pay and conditions aimed at securing savings of €1bn over the next three years.

These changes are in addition to reductions planned under the existing Croke Park Agreement.

However, no document was circulated during the meeting, which lasted approximately 30 minutes.

Unions also outlined their position and more detailed negotiations will take place tomorrow.

It is hoped that they will be completed by the end of February, however most observers believe that is overly optimistic.

Public servants face the prospect of compulsory redundancies, longer working hours, cuts in premium and overtime payments, and possible pay cuts for higher paid staff.

Staff may be asked to work longer hours to preserve their existing pay.

There are suggestions that the Government will seek at least an additional four hours a fortnight.

Staff currently working under 40 hours per week would be affected. This would impact areas such as local authorities, where some staff work 34 hours per week.

In addition, management wants to cut overtime and premium payments, particularly for working Sundays.

Management also want measures to strengthen performance management processes, including "robust" measures to manage underperformance.

Increments are also on the table, as is the possibility of pay cuts for higher grades.

The cull of staff numbers in the public service will continue with the possibility of further redundancies.

Unions react to proposals

General Secretary of the Civil and Public Service Unions Eoin Ronayne said it will be almost impossible to work through the list of savings proposed by Government.

He said removal or changes to flexi-time could cost his members €50 a week in additional childcare, which they see as a pay cut.

Mr Ronayne was critical of the decision to outsource work for the collection of the local property tax.

After the meeting, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said it had been a high-level engagement between both sides.

It was described as a "listening exercise" where both sides had tabled their proposals.

She said employer proposals related to productivity and efficiency measures.

The group will reconvene tomorrow and agree a schedule for engagement over the coming weeks with a view to concluding as soon as possible.

Compulsory redundancies

Speaking earlier on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said he is not in a position to say if any new public service agreement would also include compulsory redundancies.

He said the Government is looking to extend the Croke Park Agreement framework in order to find further savings.

Mr Quinn said that details of any new agreement "should be left to the initial talks participants".

Public service unions have described the negotiations as challenging, problematic, alarming and worrying.

General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation Sheila Nunan said before the talks that all public servants, including teachers, had taken huge cuts in pay and were very alarmed at items on the agenda.

General Secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers Mike Jennings said it was remarkable that they were going into a set of talks where it was question of trying to minimise pain instead of trying to achieve any gain whatsoever.

He said that was a very uncomfortable place for trade unions to be.

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation's General Secretary Liam Doran said he is extremely pessimistic about the prospects of any agreement being reached on an extension to the Croke Park Agreement.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny programme, Mr Doran said the vast majority of nurses and midwives are on ordinary incomes.

He said they cannot have them reduced further.

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