Public sector unions tell members to brace for hefty payroll cuts

Trade union leaders have told public sector workers to brace themselves for payroll cuts and “substantial” work practice changes under Croke Park II because staff reductions will not be enough to meet the Government’s demand for €1bn in savings.

Shay Cody, general secretary of the largest public sector union Impact, has written to members warning them that the talks, which begin on Monday, will be “the most difficult” that public service unions have ever undertaken.

“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,” he said.

On Monday, the Government will outline its proposals for achieving an extra €1bn in savings, €300m of which it wants in 2013.

Ahead of the talks, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Robert Watt, wrote to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions warning it was “not possible to envisage” achieving the required level of savings through head count reductions alone while maintaining adequate levels of service to the public.

He said the measures from the official side would involve “reductions in payroll costs for serving staff as well as substantial additional productivity and workforce reform measures”.

It is anticipated the payroll savings sought by Government will include increments and allowances. In his memo to staff Shay Cody warned that if a deal was not achieved, “employers will seek to impose payroll reductions in ways of their choosing as they have done in the past”. By that he is referring to cuts to core pay which, at this stage, are not on the table. His statement is also a warning that unions, while braced for “unpalatable” measures, will only be pushed so far.

Meanwhile, a national transport strike could be in place within a matter of days after Siptu members at Bus Éireann balloted in favour of industrial action over the company’s decision to unilaterally implement changes to work practices and entitlements from this Sunday.

Siptu said it would begin strike action from next Thursday and warned the disruption could spread to Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann.

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