So how’s that Croke Park Agreement going… a union leader writes… January 11, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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,
IMPACT General Secretary