Croke Park 2 from inside a workplace covered by IMPACT

We received the following email yesterday at my work forwarded on from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform:

 The talks process has progressed over the last 4 weeks, supported by the Labour Relations Commission.  Specifically, in the last week discussions have continued at a central level on the cost saving measures that would have overall application across all sectors, while talks within sectors have also continued aimed at exploring the potential shape of the solution at that level.  Discussions have been difficult and achieving a successful outcome remains a significant challenge.

Work will continue over the coming days aimed at testing models of the options which could contribute to a package of measures that would achieve the necessary savings of €1bn.  All parties remain focused on seeking to conclude an agreement by the end of February.

This compares to the latest update on the talks from my union, IMPACT, dated 4 Feb:

Talks on a possible extension to the Croke Park agreement have continued for another week. Management continues to pursue a range of issues including accelerated headcount reduction, a ‘higher pay’ contribution, working hours, allowances and premium payments.

Union negotiators have tabled an agenda that includes revision of the pension levy, the two-tier, workforce and other industrial relations issues outlined in previous IMPACT bulletins.

A number of IMPACT branch annual general meetings have debated the issue of increased working time, as it has emerged as a key management demand. Management negotiators are demanding that all public servants work the equivalent of an extra hour a day, regardless of whether their current working week is 39 hours, 37 hours, 35 hours or less. IMPACT and other unions have told them that we will not agree to increased working time on this scale.

The unions have also demanded that management gives full details of how, and by how much, added time would reduce the public service pay bill. The unions have engaged external financial advisors to examine the management data when it is tabled.

But, in any case, IMPACT has said it will not recommend a package that includes five additional working hours each week.

The issue of working time was discussed by the union’s elected Central Executive Committee (CEC) last Thursday (31st January). The union’s general secretary Shay Cody told the committee he believed management would not agree to a package that did not include some element of increased working time. Therefore there was no prospect of agreeing an extension to the Croke Park agreement, or its protections on pay, compulsory redundancies and other issues, if unions refused to discuss any proposals on working time.

Management has already said that, in the absence of an agreed extension to the Croke Park deal, it will seek to impose payroll savings of “at least” €1 billion. It is also clear that influential elements in the political world would seek to impose other unpalatable changes in the absence of an agreement. Public statements by ministers have, among other things, called for the introduction of compulsory redundancies and the freezing, or even abolition, of increments.

For this reason, the CEC reiterated that the union’s job was to try to reach an acceptable agreement, and to shape the outcome of the negotiations in ways that best protect IMPACT members on a range of issues including working time.

IMPACT has emphasised that any package that emerges from the talks must be equitable. The union has also repeatedly reminded management negotiators that any package must be put to a ballot of all members, who will have the final say on whether to accept or reject it.

So IMPACT seem happy to do the government’s work for it – highlighting the threat of even worse draconian cuts unless we agree to whatever package of cuts the IMPACT bureaucrats finally come up with at the end of the negotiations.


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