Union leaders accused of selling out frontline staff

Senior public sector trade union leaders have been accused of “sacrificing” frontline workers, further deepening the divide between emergency service personnel and the rest of the public service.

In a speech to up to 4,000 nurses, gardaí, prison officers, and other members of the 24/7 Frontline Alliance, Seamus Murphy, deputy general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, accused the Irish Congress of Trade Unions of being complicit with the Government in reneging on the first Croke Park deal.

In particular, he blamed senior public service union leaders who, he said, had been in “cahoots” with the Government in talks on how to achieve €1bn in cuts under Croke Park II.

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” he said.

“These unions threaten us that the Government will legislate if there isn’t an agreement. I have to say to the Government to be very careful. Do you remember what happened to the last crowd who tried to cut our pay?”

Mr Murphy was scathing about unions with frontline and non-emergency members who appeared “happy to sacrifice” the former.

“Not for the first time, we have some trade unions ignoring their obligations to protect the interests of all its members”, he said to loud cheers.

“They are complicit in giving away what was hard fought for and hard-won conditions of employment. In 1913 we had the lockout. In 2013 we have a sellout.”

Garda Representative Association president John Parker said if the Government wants to cut premium payments for gardaí working Saturday nights, “we won’t work Saturday nights”.

Emergency and frontline staff, drawn from six unions which represent 70,000 of the country’s 300,000 public servants, were protesting at what they claim is the unfair way they are being targeted through cuts proposed in Croke Park II. A large percentage of frontline workers’ pay is made up of premium payments for working late night and weekend shifts.

The Government wants to cut payments for working Sundays from double time to time and a half and it wants to scrap payments for work from 6pm to 8pm and additional payments for working on Saturdays.

The frontline unions say their members will see their pay packets cut by an average of 10.6% through those measures alone while other public servants pay little.

Meanwhile, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has joined with the GRA in “turning off the goodwill tap” and refraining from certain activities such as using their own cars for work or policing non-public events. Earlier, the GRA said it was also planning pickets at Government venues and events.

The Government — along with other public service union sources — have rejected suggestions that frontline workers are being unfairly targeted.

They point to the other initiatives currently being discussed including reduced staffing numbers, cuts to higher pay and pensions, cuts to increments and longer working hours.


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