THE biennial conference of IMPACT trade union has backed the Croke Park deal on public service pay and reform despite a number of delegates criticising those who negotiated its terms.
The union’s outgoing general secretary, Peter McLoone, told 690 delegates in Kilkenny the deal was a major achievement for everyone who delivers and uses public services, though he added few were “turning cartwheels” at the outcome.
The Irish Medical Organisation yesterday backed the deal. The three teaching unions will announce the outcome of their ballots today.
Following Mr McLoone’s summation there was a three-hour debate by delegates during which he and his fellow union leaders came under sustained criticism.
Melissa Halpin of the Dublin City branch said every time trade union leaders went into Government Buildings “we came out with less pay and with worse public services”. She said in the last year in the local authorities alone, 5,000 jobs had been lost, meaning those who remained had to work far harder and become far more stressed yet crucially the services were not there for the public.
“I work in housing in Dublin City Council and last January people were left in the freezing cold waiting for three weeks to have their heating restored. That is what the reduction in public service means. A further transformation of the public services is going to mean worse conditions for us and worse services for people.”
Declan Howard of Fingal branch said the Croke Park deal did not achieve the objectives of restoring pay and pensions or lifting the embargo imposed by the Government. “The acceptance of this deal is a form of appeasement and, while I accept the bona fides of the negotiators, I think we are faced with two very stark choices: external war or internal strife. The conditions of employment, protection of employees which this union and its predecessor have fought for over generations is about to be lost.”
A delegate from Clare Branch urged delegates to “press upon the staff and elected representatives of the union the timid, cautious and ultimately ineffectual action being taken on behalf of our union that have outraged our members”.
“The fairytale of social partnership has been the biggest problem to affect this union,” he said.
Amanda Richards of the Health and Safety Authority branch said she had been involved in the trade union movement for a number of years but never had she seen a deal which resulted in a four-year pay freeze and an uncertain reversal of pay cuts presented as “a major achievement”.
However, in spite of these sentiments, the union voted convincingly to back the Croke Park terms when it was put to a show of hands.
Peter McLoone said that if the transformation of public services, as envisaged by the deal, was to be effective, Taoiseach Brian Cowen had to “get up off his backside” and get the key public service management players together, tell them their current approach to reform was not working and insist that it’s their responsibility to provide the leadership at all levels.
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