Department says progress made in Croke Park talks

Tuesday 21 May 2013 07.04
Brendan Howlin is to brief his Cabinet colleagues tomorrow
Brendan Howlin is to brief his Cabinet colleagues tomorrow

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said that good progress has been made across all sectors in talks on a new public service pay agreement.

The department said that agreement had been reached yesterday for the civil service.

It said that the focus of the negotiations has narrowed to the two biggest sectors, which are health and education.

Intensive talks are continuing this evening, and it is expected that the final shape of the deal will be known when the talks conclude within the next 24 hours.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will brief his Cabinet colleagues at a meeting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Civil Public and Services Union General Secretary Eoin Ronayne has stressed that civil service unions have not signed off on a final agreement.

He said they are waiting to see a final document, including the cross-sectoral elements affecting the entire public service, and not just the civil service sector.

Earlier, the Health Service Executive said it is sticking to its target of €150m in savings from the health sector payroll this year.

This came despite indications that the Government might accept lower levels of reductions.

Yesterday, Minister of State Brian Hayes said that the full €300m in payroll reductions across the public sector might not be secured this year.

However, Mr Hayes insisted the Government was adamant it would save €1bn by 2015.

Intensive talks on a revised public sector pay agreement resumed at the Labour Relations Commission today.

Arriving for talks at the LRC, HSE Director of Human Resources Barry O'Brien said the Executive negotiating position was based on a requirement to achieve the full €150m in health sector savings projected in the Croke Park II proposals.

Mr O'Brien also said that the requirement for staff to work extra hours for the same pay is fundamental to their reform programme, and they see no opportunity to vary it.

Under the management proposals, staff would work additional hours ranging from an extra 1.5 hours a week for nurses, to two hours a week for other grades.

SIPTU Vice President Patricia King said the parties were trying to find savings that the employer needed to make, but to do so via a reform programme rather than a whole series of cuts.

She acknowledged that the demand for extra unpaid hours was on the table, and that the Government side seemed "quite steadfast" on that.

Ms King said that process requires intensive and difficult discussions, which are currently under way.

Earlier, Psychiatric Nurses Association General Secretary Des Kavanagh said it will be very difficult to do a deal on a revised agreement.

Asked whether his members would accept a key HSE demand of increasing the working week, he said unions had worked very hard to reduce the working week.

Mr Kavanagh said members pointed to many other non-health professionals in less stressful jobs who work much shorter working hours.

Stress is coming from short staffing and increases in the numbers availing of public services he said, adding that increasing the working week in those circumstances would be very difficult.

ASTI and TUI vote for action if pay cuts imposed

Meanwhile, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland and the Teachers' Union of Ireland have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action if the Government imposes pay cuts.

The ASTI vote was 87% in favour, with 13% against, while 84% of TUI members voted to take industrial action to oppose any unilateral Government action on pay.

Together the unions represent around 32,000 public servants.

Irish Federation of University Teachers General Secretary Mike Jennings today warned that new proposals on the Croke Park Agreement are needed for the federation to put another vote to its members.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, he said members had already voted No to Croke Park II, so a "different arrangement" would have to be put together.

He said: "We have given so many concessions I'm losing count. In any negotiations both sides will have to give and take."

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