Unions pile on pressure with pay demand

Pressure is mounting on the Government to fast-track the new Public Service Pay Commission as it scrambles to cope with mounting pay demands by unions in the wake of a €40m proposed deal for gardaí.

Gardaí are scheduled to discuss the Labour Court proposal today but mixed opinions among the force has raised doubts about it being accepted, with a strike still planned for Friday.

Industrial action by teachers will force the indefinite closure of over 400 secondary schools from today, with weekend talks failing to find a breakthrough and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) refusing to lift its ban on members doing supervision and substitution work.

Their dispute looks no nearer resolution, but Education Minister Richard Bruton said last night that the union is to blame for the closures, having refused his department’s request to co-operate with contingency arrangements that might have kept schools open.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Cabinet will discuss the proposed garda deal tomorrow but ministers do not know yet where the €40m extra will come from.

The money is on top of €290m set aside for public pay increases next year. Government officials say the €40m for the garda deal could come from various departments, rather than just the Department of Justice.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern was among those yesterday who declared that the agreed timeline for the new Public Service Pay Commission to report by the middle of next year was now finished.

“You can say goodbye to that, it my view that’s a dead duck in the water,” he said.

The commission will hold its first meeting this week. The Government says its recommendations will feed into discussions on the successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, the current public pay deal due to run until September 2018, but which unions say is not viable now and that a new pay deal and terms must be accelerated.

A raft of unions and workers’ representatives are lining up seeking the same benefits offered to gardaí, such as the increased rent allowance and pre-shift fee.

Junior doctors are the latest to voice their dissatisfaction, threatening industrial action if talks to reinstate their ‘living-out allowance’ fold.

Health Minister Simon Harris admitted to RTÉ that the garda deal had thrown up “huge challenges”.

However, he said the Government would not stray outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement. He did say that the pay commission could report by April. Government officials could not confirm this last night.

Officials from government and trade union sides are set to hold talks this week on the garda deal.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe will instruct the Government’s Public Service Management section to meet the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Union leader Tom Geraghty, who is on the committee, said there was no chance the Lansdowne Road Agreement would run its full term and that the garda deal was a “game changer”.

Meanwhile, internal strife in the Garda Representative Association could delay balloting on the pay deal, scheduled to be discussed today.

A motion of no-confidence may be entered at the body’s central executive committee in relation to GRA general secretary Pat Ennis. It stems from a decision last Thursday by the GRA to significantly increase emergency cover for Friday’s strike, which was called off at the last minute.

Sources say that members will not discuss deferring strike action or a ballot until the leadership issue is dealt with.

There are also doubts about whether the Labour Court deal might be accepted by gardaí because of uncertainty over increases and who will benefit.


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