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So how’s that Croke Park Agreement going… a union leader writes… January 11, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Dear [......]

9th January 2013

Negotiations on an extension to the Croke Park agreement

Negotiations between unions and public service employers, on a possible extension to the Croke Park agreement, will begin next Monday (14th January). The talks are expected to continue into February. If it is possible to agree a set of proposals – which is by no means certain – the outcome will be put to ballot to ensure that IMPACT members have the final say about what is, and is not, acceptable to them.

I expect this to be the most difficult negotiation we have ever undertaken, notwithstanding the changes and sacrifices that you and your colleagues have already made under Croke Park and before. I say this because the employers have told us that their objective is to reduce the total public service pay bill by an extra €1 billion between 2013 and 2015. That’s on top of the €3.3 billion reduction already targeted, which is well on the way to being delivered under the Croke Park agreement.

The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform recently wrote to us to outline the employers’ general position (no specific proposals have been put to unions in advance of the talks, despite media speculation). You can read the letter by clicking this link http://www.impact.ie/files/crokepark/talks2013/lettertotomgeraghty.pdf

In a nutshell, the employers’ position is that:

” Public expenditure remains €15 billion a year higher than the State’s income.
” Management says a total of over €3 billion of additional annual savings is needed to bridge that gap in line with commitments made to the ‘troika’.
” A third of these additional savings (€1 billion) will come from payroll costs, which make up roughly a third of public spending.
” This cannot be achieved through cuts in staffing alone. Therefore, management proposals (which will be tabled when the talks get underway) “will have to involve reductions in payroll costs for serving staff, as well as substantial additional productivity and workforce reform measures.”

We have been advised that the employers want to reach an agreement with us over how such a substantial cost reduction can be achieved. Equally we have been left in no doubt that they will seek to impose the savings, possibly in ways that would be far less acceptable, if agreement cannot be reached. If this were to happen we would have no option but to ballot you for industrial action, as we did in 2009.

Even if we are able to reach a negotiated package that can be put to ballot, it is inevitable that it will include unpalatable measures. So, it is reasonable to ask why we are going into talks at all. There are two answers to this question.

Firstly, our May 2012 IMPACT conference, where your workplace representatives make decisions on your behalf, overwhelmingly backed a number of motions calling on IMPACT to seek an extension of the Croke Park agreement at the appropriate time, with the objective of maintaining the deal’s core protections on pay, job security and pensions. In other words, we have a democratic mandate to enter talks.

Secondly it is clear that, if we fail to reach an agreement or do not to engage in talks, the employers will seek to impose payroll reductions in ways of their choosing as they have done in the past. Our task in the negotiations is to minimise the impact of cuts on public servants and the people they serve, and to influence the shape of any changes in ways that best protect our members’ incomes and working conditions.

When we met the employers towards the end of last year, we told management that we were willing to try to reach an agreement, but that it would have to meet three criteria to succeed. First, management would have to prove that its proposals would make genuine and necessary savings. Second, any measures would have to be fair, which meant they could not fall disproportionately on any group of staff, particularly those on low and middle incomes. Thirdly, the outcome would have to pass the tests of ballots in IMPACT and other unions. In other words management will have to convince us of the genuine need for any changes they seek, and also convince union members that they are preferable to any possible alternatives.

We are entering a negotiation with our employers. Through the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, IMPACT is simultaneously campaigning for a change in economic policy. The austerity imposed over the last five years isn’t working. Public services have suffered. Unemployment and emigration have soared and family incomes have been slashed. As a result, domestic demand has collapsed and there is no obvious sign of a sustained economic recovery. Equally, there is no prospect of Ireland successfully exiting the ‘troika’ programme unless the EU honours its promise of a deal on bank debt.

We cannot change Government and troika policy in the forthcoming negotiations with management. But the union is urging you to increase the pressure for such change by participating in the ICTU-organised rallies that are taking place on Saturday 9th February. We’ll be posting information about the rallies in the coming days.

In the meantime, IMPACT will continue to update you on the negotiations and related matters through our website (www.impact.ie) and through the union’s regular ebulletins to members.

With best wishes,

Shay Cody
IMPACT General Secretary

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1. Jim Monaghan - January 11, 2013

Interesting letter from Paddy Healy
I have pasted below a letter from Shay Cody, GS IMPACT to IMPACT Reps in advance of negotiations with Government on “an extension to the Croke Park Deal” The Irish Times Report on the matter is also appended.

In my opinion, union leaders have effectively conceded in advance of the talks. This is clear from the entirety of the letter. However this extract from the letter of Shay Cody encapsulates the position: “We have been advised that the employers want to reach an agreement with us over how such a substantial cost reduction can be achieved. Equally we have been left in no doubt that they will seek to impose the savings, possibly in ways that would be far less acceptable, if agreement cannot be reached. If this were to happen we would have no option but to ballot you for industrial action, as we did in 2009.
Even if we are able to reach a negotiated package that can be put to ballot, it is inevitable that it will include unpalatable measures. So, it is reasonable to ask why we are going into talks at all. ———- Our task in the negotiations is to minimise the impact of cuts on public servants and the people they serve, and to influence the shape of any changes in ways that best protect our members’ incomes and working conditions.”

The Irish Times Report contains a key additional element of proposed cuts: “The Government has confirmed it has asked the OECD to review pension arrangements for serving public service staff. This report is due next month.”

The level of retreat by union leaders is so great that Shay Cody himself raises the question of why they are entering talks! His reply is that the government is going to bring in the changes in any event and the role of the union is to “minimise the impact of cuts on public servants and the people they serve”. In effect they have accepted a worsening of the Croke Park Deal in advance!

Clearly to enter talks in the framework of government threats is a further retreat by union leaders.

To put the government demand for 1 billion in further cuts to the public service pay bill in context let us remember:

· Top 10,000 tax payers have a total income of €5,959m per year and each has an average income of €595,900 (Reply by Michael Noonan to parliamentary question) .The overwhelming majority of these are in private sector (PH).
· From 2010 to 2012 the wealth of the top 300 Irish rich has increased by 12 Billion Euro to 62 Billion or 200 million each ( Nick Webb, Sunday Independent, March 11 2012)

Please reply with your suggestions as to how active trade unionists should respond to this situation

It is important to note that the proposed strike by CIE workers is a key battle not only for workers in commercial state bodies but also for all public servants and indeed for all workers. Every support should be given to CIE workers. This battle must be won! In my opinion, the stance of the Public Service Union leaders weakens the position of the CIE workers.

Paddy Healy

Convener national Public Service Alliance 086-4183732

TO Branch secretaries

Dear colleague

Negotiations on an extension to the Croke Park agreement

Negotiations between unions and public service employers, on a possible extension to the Croke Park agreement, will begin next Monday (14th January). The talks are expected to continue into February. If it is possible to agree a set of proposals – which is by no means certain – the outcome will be put to ballot to ensure that IMPACT members have the final say about what is, and is not, acceptable to them.

I expect this to be the most difficult negotiation we have ever undertaken, notwithstanding the changes and sacrifices that you and your colleagues have already made under Croke Park and before. I say this because the employers have told us that their objective is to reduce the total public service pay bill by an extra €1 billion between 2013 and 2015. That’s on top of the €3.3 billion reduction already targeted, which is well on the way to being delivered under the Croke Park agreement.

The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform recently wrote to us to outline the employers’ general position (no specific proposals have been put to unions in advance of the talks, despite media speculation). You can read the letter by clicking this linkhttp://www.impact.ie/files/crokepark/talks2013/lettertotomgeraghty.pdf

In a nutshell, the employers’ position is that:

” Public expenditure remains €15 billion a year higher than the State’s income.
” Management says a total of over €3 billion of additional annual savings is needed to bridge that gap in line with commitments made to the ‘troika’.
” A third of these additional savings (€1 billion) will come from payroll costs, which make up roughly a third of public spending.
” This cannot be achieved through cuts in staffing alone. Therefore, management proposals (which will be tabled when the talks get underway) “will have to involve reductions in payroll costs for serving staff, as well as substantial additional productivity and workforce reform measures.”

We have been advised that the employers want to reach an agreement with us over how such a substantial cost reduction can be achieved. Equally we have been left in no doubt that they will seek to impose the savings, possibly in ways that would be far less acceptable, if agreement cannot be reached. If this were to happen we would have no option but to ballot you for industrial action, as we did in 2009.

Even if we are able to reach a negotiated package that can be put to ballot, it is inevitable that it will include unpalatable measures. So, it is reasonable to ask why we are going into talks at all. There are two answers to this question.

Firstly, our May 2012 IMPACT conference, where your workplace representatives make decisions on your behalf, overwhelmingly backed a number of motions calling on IMPACT to seek an extension of the Croke Park agreement at the appropriate time, with the objective of maintaining the deal’s core protections on pay, job security and pensions. In other words, we have a democratic mandate to enter talks.

Secondly it is clear that, if we fail to reach an agreement or do not to engage in talks, the employers will seek to impose payroll reductions in ways of their choosing as they have done in the past. Our task in the negotiations is to minimise the impact of cuts on public servants and the people they serve, and to influence the shape of any changes in ways that best protect our members’ incomes and working conditions.

When we met the employers towards the end of last year, we told management that we were willing to try to reach an agreement, but that it would have to meet three criteria to succeed. First, management would have to prove that its proposals would make genuine and necessary savings. Second, any measures would have to be fair, which meant they could not fall disproportionately on any group of staff, particularly those on low and middle incomes. Thirdly, the outcome would have to pass the tests of ballots in IMPACT and other unions. In other words management will have to convince us of the genuine need for any changes they seek, and also convince union members that they are preferable to any possible alternatives.

We are entering a negotiation with our employers. Through the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, IMPACT is simultaneously campaigning for a change in economic policy. The austerity imposed over the last five years isn’t working. Public services have suffered. Unemployment and emigration have soared and family incomes have been slashed. As a result, domestic demand has collapsed and there is no obvious sign of a sustained economic recovery. Equally, there is no prospect of Ireland successfully exiting the ‘troika’ programme unless the EU honours its promise of a deal on bank debt.

We cannot change Government and troika policy in the forthcoming negotiations with management. But the union is urging you to increase the pressure for such change by participating in the ICTU-organised rallies that are taking place on Saturday 9th February. We’ll be posting information about the rallies in the coming days.

In the meantime, IMPACT will continue to update you on the negotiations and related matters through our website (www.impact.ie) and through the union’s regular ebulletins to members.

With best wishes,
Shay Cody
IMPACT General Secretary

Read more about IMPACT’s support for the rallies here http://www.impact.ie/12/12/14/We-ve-rallied-against-the-symptoms–now-let-s-rally-against-the-cause-.htm
State to seek cuts if no deal struck, say unions

MARTIN WALL, Industry Correspondent

Irish Times Thu, Jan 10, 2013

The Government has made clear that it will unilaterally impose €1 billion in cuts to its pay and pensions bill if it cannot reach agreement on an extension to the current Croke Park agreement, unions have said.

The largest public service trade union, Impact, told members yesterday that if this were to happen it would ballot for industrial action.

Talks on the new extension to the Croke Park deal between public service management and trade unions will commence next Monday.

In a letter to members yesterday, Impact general secretary Shay Cody said it was clear that if unions failed to reach a new agreement or failed to engage in talks “the employers will seek to impose payroll reductions in ways of their choosing as they have done in the past”.

Pay cut of 7%

Some trade union leaders have calculated that to reduce the pay bill by €1 billion in the absence of any reforms, measures or savings could involve a pay cut of about 7 per cent.

In a letter to trade unions earlier this week, secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt said some €300 million in additional savings on the public service pay and pensions bill would have to be generated this year.

Overall, the Government wants to make savings of €1 billion on its pay and pensions bill over the next three years.

He said the measures under the Croke Park agreement would not deliver the scale of savings required nor could they be achieved by reducing staffing levels alone.

“Therefore, the measures the official side propose to put on the table will have to involve reductions in payroll costs for serving staff, as well as substantial additional productivity and workforce reform measures for all to assist in controlling any underlying expenditure pressures that may relate to the reduction in public service numbers.”

Additional hours

There has been speculation the Government is expected to propose additional working hours for staff as well as reductions in premium payments for weekend work in some areas. There may be proposals for changes to supervision and substitution payments for teachers, and for pay cuts for some high-earners.

The Government has confirmed it has asked the OECD to review pension arrangements for serving public service staff. This report is due next month.

In his letter to members yesterday, Mr Cody said: “We have been advised that the employers want to reach an agreement with us over how such a substantial cost reduction can be achieved. Equally, we have been left in no doubt that they will seek to impose the savings, possibly in ways that would be far less acceptable, if agreement cannot be reached.

“If this were to happen we would have no option but to ballot you for industrial action, as we did in 2009.”

© 2013 The Irish Times

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2. LeftAtTheCross - January 11, 2013

Amazing.

How did the IMPACT membership elect a leadership with such lack of backbone as is dosplayed in the letter above?

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3. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - January 11, 2013

Leaderships sometimes reflect memberships…

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LeftAtTheCross - January 11, 2013

I appreciate that of course. When does a leadership simply become a followership though?

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4. Richard - January 11, 2013

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

‘ Can we think of union structures in which communities not of professionals, but of service users, might have a voice and vote? Is it possible to democratise union institutions so as to place them in the service of a community dynamic? What kind of aggressive demands might emerge? Can we envisage a new trade unionism that not only entails the defence of living standards for professionals, but also the defence and development of the public services that they supply?’

http://knaves.posterous.com/translation-are-the-mareas-a-new-trade-unioni

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Richard - January 11, 2013

actually that should read ‘not just of professionals..’

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5. Joe - January 11, 2013

Mr Cody is not elected. He is appointed by the National Executive, which is an elected body. But in reality IMPACT is controlled by the full-time officials led by Cody – the National Executive does what it’s told.
Mr Cody is also a member of the Labour Party – which might explain why he is more or less surrendering to the government demands before the negotiations even begin.
It’s all a pretence. He softens up the members by saying this guff about the most difficult negotiations, we’re backed into a corner etc and the members get softened up by the media – see today’s “leak” of a Troika thing demanding more blood from public servants. The eventual deal will be accepted by IMPACT members because they will believe they have no choice.
And Branno’s point above is fair comment. It’s not as if there’s a mass of active lefts among the IMPACT membership fighting against this.
Depressing times.

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LeftAtTheCross - January 11, 2013

Joe, your union needs you, now is the time for you to take those boots down from over the mantle piece and dust them off…

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Joe - January 11, 2013

Nah LATC. More like now is the time to take the lump :)

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6. richotto - January 11, 2013

If Unions and the left are to be serious as opposed to being bloody minded and out of touch with public opinion they must address obvious abuses that appear as little more than corruption and manopolistic price gouging which have evolved over the past thirty or forty years. Ghandi when asked what do you think of English civilization replied that it would be a good idea. The same point could be put to certain public service vested interests that have nothing to do with workers or society interests in general. Averge pay for instance in several of the manopaly semi states of over 70k is the same thing as Bank Executives helping themselves, just spreading it downwards a bit more. There are plenty of examples of manopolistic price(wage) gouging far too numerous to mention here.
I believe that if the left and Union movement is to achieve more credibility than it has now it has to cut off the obvious abusive vested interests that are hiding behind the ordinary public service workers and concentrate on keeping the standards of those on wages of below 50k. Theres far too much empirical evidence that many of those above that level are undeservedly at levels far beyond their peers anywhere, domestically or abroad in countries far richer then ours.

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EamonnCork - January 11, 2013

There’s far too much empirical evidence that the word is ‘monopoly’ rather than ‘manopaly.’

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Joe - January 11, 2013

Fair enough point Richotto. There are some public servants who are milking it e.g. hospital consultants – not saying that most of them don’t work hard for it but they certainly rake in big money too.
And then the top civil servants who persuaded the govt to let them keep their top ups (I can’t remember the detail of this now but basically they ended up with a lesser percentage reduction than the vast majority of public servants) the time of the first pay cut.
And yeah, top managers in a lot of the quangos and hospitals and so on.
Bureaucracies know how to look after themselves and the top heads make sure they get the cream.
But wait till you see, IMPACT will talk about protecting the lower paid, but the lower paid will end up getting hit at least as hard as the higher ups.

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Jim Monaghan - January 13, 2013

I like the SF line of a maximum wage in the public sector of 100k. Starting point for Croke Park 2 in my opinion.

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fergal - January 13, 2013

I like it too,don’t they do it in Holland ?.Once it’s in you can extend it to the so-called private sector(state-owned banks,IDA sponoosred jobs,shops,pubs,bookies dependant on welfare claimants etc etc)
Does everbody agree that rich people are too expensive here? That the Ireland’s rich people are not competitve. That rich people(capital cost) are overpaid?That a rich person in Poland only costs about 10 per cent of a rich person here?That tich people in China cost only about 5 per cent of what htey coet here. Isn’t it time we made our rich more competitive?They’re not even productive the average rich person in Brazil “creates” 22 jobs a year here it’s just 0.1 of a job.We just can’t afford such high capital costs somenting must be done

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Rot Peter der Affe - January 13, 2013

That’s brilliant, Fergal.

Clearly the solution is to put the role of ‘Irish rich bastart sorry wealth creator’ out to public tender.

This section of the market clearly needs re-vitalising and be restructured and freed from anti-competitive practices.

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Rot Peter der Affe - January 13, 2013

And my proof-reading needs to be put out to public tender as well.

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7. Tomboktu - January 11, 2013

ASTI have a one para statement here

INMO’s position is set out here

PSEU letter to members is here

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eamonncork - January 12, 2013

IMPACT’s position is here.

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8. 6to5against - January 11, 2013

I’m not going to defend either the CPA or the general defeatist tone of the IMPACT letter, but there is one point within it that I feel is valid: that distinction has to be made between trade union negotiations and political opposition to government policy.

I am absolutely opposed to the government policy over the last few years. I believe specifically that the attack on the public sector has been more ideological than pragmatic. And I believe that the continuous reductions in public spending are counter productive and depress the economy.

But when my union is in negotiations, I don’t believe that they should be obliged to overturn government policy. They have to protect the members in the face of a relentless onslaught on terms and conditions and they have to do so while bearing in mind that union power is under very real threat both here and internationally, and that much of their membership voted for the current government parties.

Are some of the leadership corrupt? I think so. Dishonest? Probably. But some are not. Some are working hard in impossible situations.

We should all keep the pressure on our unions to fit for their memberships. But we also have to fight the misguided policy of the government elsewhere.

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WorldbyStorm - January 12, 2013

It’s a difficult balance to strike, and you raise a fair point. There’s also the thought that a lot of union leaders re actually somewhat to the left of their memberships even if they’re cosy with the LP. Lets none of us get starry eyed about a nascent oppositional sentiment amongst memberships, it’s not there.

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9. Ian - January 12, 2013

What do people here think of the ordinary rank and file public service/civil service worker’s attitude here towards their unions?

In my workplace, most colleagues (who are not left-wing) would probably stop paying their union dues if another paycut is imposed. I think the unions are in a weak position because so many of their members would stop paying the dues if they can’t prevent another paycut. Hence the willingness to negotiate on almost anything..

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ejh - January 12, 2013

Would those same people go on strike to try and prevent the pay cut?

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Tomboktu - January 12, 2013

And: would a strike succeed?

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10. 6to5against - January 12, 2013

Membership where I work has actually increased and attitude to the union improved, but at the same time there is widespread cynicism about the overall situation and the unions ability, or even willingness, to improve matters.
The apparent contradiction turns on an event last summer where the management made a straight forward attempt to replace two colleagues with cheaper replacements. The union were wonderful: committing huge resources in time and money to the fight and rejecting all compromises. It took three months but they won.

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