Unions refusing pay deal set to miss out

Public sector workers who reject the new €880m Lansdowne Road pay agreement will miss out on pay increases contained in the deal, unions leaders are being warned.

While the threat is not explicitly contained in the draft document, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and the Government are clear that only those who sign up to the deal can benefit from its terms, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

This means that pay awards of 1% due to commence from next January will not be paid to those unions who reject the deal.

“In line with LRA — which this proposed agreement will be an extension of — the general position is that those who do not subscribe to agreement should not avail of the benefits of that agreement,” Mr Donohoe’s spokesman told the Irish Examiner.

The matter of excluding unions who do not accept the deal is tied up with the terms of the financial emergency legislation (Fempi) which Mr Donohoe needs yearly approval from the Dáil to continue.

“This issue is being explored at the moment, in the context of the Fempi Acts, which Minister Donohoe is required to make a statement to the Dáil on shortly,” his spokesman said.

The generous pay award of 7% is being seen by many as a catalyst in the significant decision of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) to suspend their current campaign of industrial action at the weekend.

The union had been refusing to work additional hours due to their opposition to the first Lansdowne Road Agreement and had objected to junior cycle reforms.

However, at a special ASTI convention held in Dublin on Saturday, members decided to suspend the current campaign of industrial action by 240 votes to 121. 

This is seen by some as a victory of the moderate side of the union and it opens the door to the union signing up to the benefits of the new pay deal.

Mr Donohoe, his officials, and other union leaders were taken by surprise by the decision of the INTO, the country’s largest teacher trade union, to recommend a rejection of the new pay deal which runs until 2020.

The INTO said the move was based on the failure of the proposed agreement to progress the issue of pay equality for new entrants, which would cost €208m in the first year. 

However, speaking to the Irish Examiner, sources close to Mr Donohoe have said those new entrants are the biggest gainers in the deal.

They argue the deal provides a triple-lock mechanism to address the concerns around new entrants.

Firstly, the lower paid will be entitled to higher rates of pay increases, up to 10% in some cases, which are not open to other state employees.

Secondly, they will pay a far lower pension contribution on their earnings to reflect their final pension will be lower than those working in the public service pre 2011.

And finally, according to the text of the deal, new entrants will have a review of the deal after 12 months.

But any change cannot impact on the “fiscal envelope” assigned to pay for the deal.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Bernard Harbour of the Impact union said there is still scope to further addressing the issue of new entrants and the major problem of retaining staff in certain sectors like nursing.

“There is no deal which resolves every problem or that you get everything you want. But in terms of new entrants what we have is a process so nothing is closed off on that,” he said.

Early indications are that while the INTO has recommended rejection, the other big unions Siptu and Impact are likely to recommend acceptance of the deal and that is likely to create momentum behind the deal.

Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary said the deal remains imperfect until new entrants are properly dealt with.

He told the Irish Examiner: “It does nothing for new entrants and we need to see far more urgent action to deal with those sectors where there are real difficulties in hiring staff.

“We need to see far more action from Government.”

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