Confusion over Government’s intentions with Croke Park deal

A Government’s move to renegotiate the Croke Park deal remained mired in confusion last night.

The Cabinet appeared to be sending out conflicting messages on the key economic issue as a senior Labour minister insisted talks could begin “within weeks”, while the Taoiseach downplayed such suggestions.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the Government could require employers and unions to consider new aspects of the industrial peace deal.

“My own view is that if the Government were to decide to intrude new issues into the Croke Park discussions in the coming weeks I would support that,” he told RTÉ.

“If you have agreement of the parties to sit down and in the national interest and look at the overall economic situation and where we are now and the fact that in order to be compliant with our targets we have to bring in what will be a difficult budget in December, then if Government were to make that decision between now and then, I certainly would support that.”

Speaking at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting in Westport, Enda Kenny insisted that the deal would not be subject to “unilateral renegotiation” and would be honoured until it expired in 2014.

However, the Taoiseach said he wanted to speed up implementation of its cost savings and said he would continue to meet with unions and other interested parties regarding the agreement.

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said invoking the clause in the Croke Park deal that triggered renegotiation was still an option.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore insisted the Government was committed to implementing the terms of the current agreement.

The Labour leader said the deal had delivered 18,000 fewer public servant posts than at the beginning of the agreement and was delivering the savings promised.

However, Ibec director of industrial relations Brendan McGinty called for a new deal, insisting Croke Park is “not fit for purpose”.

Impact general secretary Shay Cody said the deal was worth sticking with. “The great bulk of allowances that are paid in the public service are paid to people because they work night shifts, they work 24-hour cycles, they work seven-day cycles,” he said.

“There are some allowances that the Government are reviewing and the trade unions have simply said to the Government, ‘Come forward with your proposals, if we can live with them, we can live with them. If we can’t live with them, we have a mechanism under Croke Park that we can test the justification for those, in front of the Labour Court or some arbitration body’.”

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