Ireland’s largest nursing union has denied its early departure from the Croke Park II talks left young nurses “high and dry” because it did not avail of concessions which have now been afforded to new teachers.
In a radio interview on RTÉ radio yesterday, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar referred to unions which had “decided, rather than performing for the media, to protect their members”.
“You can see the difference in what has been achieved,” said Mr Varadkar.
“For example, the difference between the teachers and the nurses. The teachers stayed in the talks and they have now achieved equalisation of pay levels for young teachers who are new to the teaching profession and are coming into it. The nurses [union] did not do that and have achieved nothing for young nurses. They have left them high and dry.”
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said that everything which was on the table for the health service workers when it left the talks early was still on the table when the final proposals emerged. It said no concessions at all were made to health workers.
Its assistant general secretary Dave Hughes said: “Nothing came to the health service at all after we left. That [the equalisation for young teachers] had happened before we left.
“It was not available to us. Not just us but anyone in the health service. They made a decision that they were going to take money in the health service and teachers could decide to take it from people who were at the higher end of the scale or the lower end and that was for the teachers to decide.”
On the reported €130m in “sweeteners” for unions to back the Labour Relations Commission’s proposals, Mr Varadkar said: “It was always the plan to do that [offer concessions and add-backs], so, for example, there is an alleviation of the pension levy for lower paid workers.
“There are also some other measures for example for people who are going to retire in the next year or two who had an expectation of a certain pension and a lump sum. Those are there for the unions who accepted.”
He said while there will not be “cruel and unusual punishment” for those who do not agree to the deal, “what we can’t have as a Government is any rewards for unions who walked out of the talks”.
Today, the Garda Representative Association is due to meet to discuss how it intends to escalate its campaign of protests. On Wednesday, the executive of Siptu will gather to decide whether to recommend acceptance or rejection of the LRC proposals to its members.
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