Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Unions walk out of Croke Park talks

SIPTU General President Jack O'Connor has threatened strike action over public sector pay

Four unions representing thousands of workers have walked out of the Croke Park talks after branding the Government's "draconian" agenda unacceptable.

Doctors, nurses and other civil servants dismissed the Government`s demands as unrealistic following negotiations between public sector management and workers` representatives. The dialogue is aimed at cutting extra one billion euros from the state payroll.

Eoin Ronayne, general secretary of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) which represents thousands of clerical and administrative grade staff in the civil service, said: "Union members had contributed enormously over the last few years, had suffered two pay cuts and had nothing more to give."

Other unions to leave are the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and Unite.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said: "It is regrettable that any union would choose to leave at this late stage in the negotiations."

Premium payments for working evenings and weekends, outsourcing, and wage cuts for higher paid public servants were among controversial issues being addressed on Sunday.

A CPSU spokesman said: "CPSU representatives were left with no choice but to leave the talks today after a series of draconian proposals from Government representatives which are designed to have a huge impact on the working lives and wages of 12,000 members countrywide."

The INMO has said it is no longer a party to the process and will not be bound by the outcome of any agreement should it emerge. A spokeswoman said: "The decision to withdraw was taken by the Executive Council when it became apparent that there was no possibility of the ongoing process protecting the existing income of its members."

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton has said any public sector cuts will be fair and balanced across all areas. But the head of Ireland's largest union has threatened protracted strike action if a reasonable deal on public sector pay is not reached.

SIPTU president Jack O'Connor claimed Government "hawks" could push his members into a war. "Our team at the talks are working day and night striving to achieve an outcome that would be better for all the workers employed in the public service than a legislated pay cut or what we could reasonably expect from a protracted industrial battle," he said. "However, failing a reasonable outcome we will actually go to war. We are prepared for it. It will involve protracted strikes and all that goes with them. While we may not win, the Government will not win either."

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