PUBLIC sector union leaders last night insisted they were willing to go into negotiations on pay cuts announced in their sector, but they were prepared to keep escalating their industrial action for months to come until a solution is agreed.
Addressing a mass meeting of public sector workers in Galway, the leaders also dismissed claims that they were now only focused on preventing pay cuts in the next budget.
IMPACT general secretary designate Shay Cody said both the pension levy and the average 7% pay cuts announced in the December budget were not irreversible: “financial emergency measures” in the title of the legislation indicated that they were temporary.
“Most commentators say the pay cuts are here to stay. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pensions levy act requires a review by the minister before the end of June this year to see whether or not any of the provisions of the act continue to be necessary.
“Identical language is used in the legislation that cut salaries,” he said.
SIPTU president Jack O’Connor made it clear that unions were prepared to force the Government into negotiation. “We must lay out a determined programme of action running right into the summer, carefully and incrementally escalating and ramping it up in such a way as to minimise the implications for ordinary citizens of the country, to the degree we can, and maximising the prospect of a negotiated outcome,” he said.
“Otherwise, we will end up drifting along to the end of the year and into another budgetary assault on jobs, pay and pensions,” he said.
Nonetheless, Mr Cody said the unions would not enter talks unless the agenda included a restoration of pay rates, protection of pensions and an end to the threats of compulsory redundancies and widespread outsourcing in the public service.
He also warned the assembled public servants the Government would insist that public service reform was on the agenda.
“The public service transformation, developed by the unions last year and now sought by the Government, could be back on the table if the Government is prepared to agree that the pay cuts can be reversed if equivalent savings are made through public service reforms,” he said.
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Liam Doran warned members of the impact of the Government’s actions on the health service.
“In relation to the health service the Government’s current approach, through its recruitment embargo, bed closures and curtailment of services, is to effectively render it incapable of meeting the needs of the general public,” he said.
“We are seeing ever increasing levels of A&E overcrowding, longer waiting lists, the closure of over 2,000 beds by the end of the year, and the loss of a further 1,600 posts.
“This campaign must also make sure this dismantling of our public health service is stopped, reversed and thereby ensuring that our sick and vulnerable also have respect shown to them,” said Mr Doran.
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