Unions call off second public sector strike action

A second one-day strike by 250,000 public sector workers was called off tonight as Government and unions edged closer to agreeing €1.3bn pay cuts.

Despite the breakthrough, teaching unions were facing internal revolt over proposed wage cuts and wider reform.

Negotiators have been locked in talks for several days with discussions centred on two weeks unpaid leave and radical reform of shift patterns to slash overtime.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen welcomed the suspension of Thursday’s strike.

“The Taoiseach welcomes the fact that the industrial action planned for Thursday will not now take place and hopes that progress can be made in the coming days,” a Government statement said.

Bernard Harbor, from the Impact trade union, said the basis of a deal to secure the bulk of savings through unpaid leave has been agreed.

“There has been enough progress to suspend the strike,” he said.

Talks on the Budget cuts will resume at Government Buildings tomorrow morning.

But angry teachers lashed out at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ negotiating team claiming they had no mandate to open talks with the Government on pay cuts.

Representatives from the INTO, TUI and Siptu claimed it the greatest betrayal in the history of the Irish trade union movement before branding Congress negotiators “Government agents”.

The Cabinet discussed a progress report on the talks which it is understood includes assurances on maintaining pay rates and pensions.

But Gregor Kerr of the INTO said the 250,000 workers who went on strike last Tuesday were protesting against wage cuts and in defence of the public services.

“Today we are saying loud and clear that we consider ’unpaid leave’ to be a pay cut by another name and it is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Ben Bishop, chair of Dublin city branch of the TUI, said: “The ICTU has no mandate from any union to discuss pay cuts.”

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