Paschal Donohoe given ultimatum on public sector pay deal

Trade union leaders have issued a direct ultimatum to Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe, demanding the Government agree a new collective deal with the public sector or face a free-for-all pay war with workers.

The first round of talks between ICTU, the umbrella body for unions, and Mr Donohoe at Government buildings yesterday was described as “very frank” and “difficult” by sources.

In the wake of a special €40m pay deal for gardaí, union chiefs are awaiting the Government’s next move and whether the proposed Labour Court deal will be accepted by Cabinet as well as gardaí.

Mr Donohoe and his officials were given two options by the public services committee of ICTU yesterday: A “free for all” from all the different unions or a “collective wage agreement”. A clear message was also given that the Lansdowne Road agreement is now considered finished and a new deal must be drawn up.

Sources at the meeting told the Irish Examiner: “It was very frank, very direct. There were direct messages from both sides. You would expect it would be a difficult meeting given the circumstances.”

Sources confirmed that Mr Donohoe was given the two options and clearly told the Lansdowne Road agreement needs to be replaced. The ultimatum will set the tone in any set of talks that will proceed in the wake of the proposed Garda deal.

The minister’s office refused to discuss details of the meeting.

However, a spokeswoman said: “Both parties agreed to support moving forward with a collective pay policy agreement. Further contact at ministerial and official level is expected across the coming period.”

Trade unions await the Government’s next move, including the outcome of today’s Cabinet meeting.

The public services committee of ICTU represents some 19 trade unions. It is expected that a large-scale meeting of trade unions could be scheduled in the coming weeks to discuss the Garda deal and pay demands going forward.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday warned: “We cannot go back to the boom and bust, the ‘when I have it I spend it’ recklessness that brought the country to the brink.”

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