THE deferment of tomorrow’s strike may have cost the Government €300 million, as the €1.3 billion it was looking to cut from the public sector pay bill appears to have been reduced to €1bn.
IMPACT general secretary Peter McLoone announced yesterday after two days of continuous negotiations that the Government and unions had reached an accommodation on 12 days of unpaid leave across the public sector, negating the need for pay cuts and, therefore, the strike.
There are a number of areas which have not been fully examined, in particular in terms of the transformation of the public service into the future.
The outstanding issues include new 8am to 8pm rostering in the health sector and the exact mechanisms by which unpaid leave would be carried out in areas such as health and education.
“Clearly the position we are in is that these talks are more likely to proceed than fail, so we felt it was better to cancel Thursday and spend the time completing an overall arrangement with the Government that will get us into the transformation (of the public service) and also deal with problems they have in 2010,” Mr McLoone said.
However, the “problem” to which he refers is now provoking controversy. It had been expected Government and unions would be expected to agree €1.3bn in public service pay bill savings in 2010. However, it emerged last night the Government may now only be looking for €1bn from that area. That would mean if union sources’ estimates are correct and the unpaid leave agenda can deliver €800m in savings in 2010, that, combined with the €120m which is expected to come from the current review of the pay of high earners in the public sector, would leave little more to be found from that sector.
While the Government welcomed the cancellation of the strike, Fine Gael accused the Government of “bottling it”.
The party’s deputy leader and finance spokesman, Richard Bruton, said public sector workers, taxpayers and consumers would all end up losing out if the early details of the “putative” pay deal were true.
“They [the Government] had a chance to deliver real change and cost reductions in the public sector and they’ve blown it.”
He said the deal would see an estimated 5% cut in the pay packet of every public sector worker and consumers would lose out through reduced services, including frontline areas.
“It appears from other media reports that the capital budget will be slashed by an extra €250m to allow for a lower saving target in public sector pay. If this is the case, vital capital spending has been cut to allow a terrible deal to be cobbled together,” said Mr Bruton.
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