Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Unions likely to agree new pay deal

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin says alternatives to a collective agreement will be considered

Ten unions that overwhelmingly rejected Government plans to slash the public pay bill are likely to agree to a new deal.

As the coalition warned it will press ahead with new laws to impose unilateral pay cuts as a back-up plan, unions have indicated progress had been made in the renegotiations of Croke Park II.

Representatives have been locked in extended talks with Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey, who insisted a deal would be reached no later than Friday.

Mr Mulvey said: "We think we have agreement in principle of potentially 10 unions who were opposed to the agreement last week potentially looking at it afresh with a more positive disposition towards agreeing to the details that have been negotiated."

Gardai and health workers said more progress had been made over recent days than throughout the entire negotiations process in February, when Government plans to cut 300 million euro from the public pay bill were overwhelmingly rejected.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin told Cabinet that while he still hopes overall agreement can be reached ahead of the cuts - which are to implemented in July - the Government will be prepared to strike side deals with individual unions.

Mr Mulvey was tasked last month to coax unions back into talks on Croke Park II, which they previously overwhelmingly rejected.

A conclusion was expected last Tuesday, but the industrial relations mediator was given more time to try to appease the unions - some of which had threatened strike action in the event of unilateral pay cuts.

Among the unions to vote against the original Croke Park II deal were Unite, Siptu, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (Asti), the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Irish Medial Organisation (IMO) and the Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU).

But on Tuesday, the IMO, which walked out of the original talks, said fresh negotiations with Mr Mulvey had proved beneficial.

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