Pressure is mounting on the Government to enter early public sector pay talks, with Siptu now primed to ballot members for strike action in the coming weeks.
The country’s largest union is to ballot its 60,000 members on December 1 as it believes the Lansdowne Road agreement is no longer acceptable and a new deal must be struck. It wants discussions to begin before February 1.
Public sector unions have given the Government a fortnight to commit to a new round of negotiations or face a winter of walkouts and protests.
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe has backed the Lansdowne Road agreement, claiming the country cannot afford to fully restore pay at this time, and that services would suffer if pay increased across the board.
The public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has demanded a commitment from Government before its next meeting in a fortnight. The Siptu decision to ballot members coincides with this meeting.
If no promise to re-enter talks is received, there would be widespread balloting of public sector workers, with Siptu leading the charge.
Although a process of partial pay restoration has started through the Lansdowne Road agreement, nurses, teachers, junior doctors, and other public workers feel this is not happening quickly enough.
They want an acceleration of pay restoration as they believe the economy has recovered at a far faster rate than expected.
The Lansdowne Road agreement is not due to be re-negotiated until the third quarter of next year, but public unions are demanding this be brought forward.
At a meeting yesterday, the national executive council of Siptu authorised ballots by union members for industrial action and strike action.
Siptu president Jack O’Connor had originally set yesterday as a deadline for the Government to come back with a commitment on talks. Ictu’s public services committee had asked the union to defer a decision on this matter for two weeks to allow for exploratory talks.
“In deference to this request, we are asking our various negotiating committees to make their preparations to enable balloting to commence on Thursday, December 1, and thereafter as they consider appropriate,” Siptu said in a statement.
It said it had “recommended acceptance of extremely difficult choices” to members during the downturn. “We always made it clear that when circumstances changed we would take whatever action was necessary to retake lost ground.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe said he had met with Ictu’s public service committee last week, and“agreed that further ongoing communication at ministerial and official level would take place. “Government has at all times affirmed its commitment to the Lansdowne Road agreement and to doing what is right for the entire country.”
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