A summer of industrial action? What the key industrial groups want

With more and more workesr and unions expressing disaffection, Stephen Rogers looks at the various demands of the main industrial groupings.

Garda demands

Gardaí have laid out a clear list of demands they require immediately in relation to their pay and conditions.

The Garda Representative Association, which represents 10,500 rank and file members of the force, has said the new Government must:

  • Immediately re-instate new recruits’ pre-2008 attestation salary of €25,745. The amount was cut by 10% to €23,171 by the last Government;
  • Reinstate the loss of €4,017.55 which new recruits lost with the abolition of the rent allowance;
  • Immediately reverse cuts to wages and allowances for all garda members.

The association has also said a further recruitment drive is urgently needed as the 12,500 members available for duty is 2,000 less than the figure for 2010 due to the recruitment moratorium, retirements, long-term illness and incentivised career breaks.

Garda representatives have been involved in a review of pay under the Haddington Road process — they rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement — and have had regular meetings with Ray McGee, the independent chair of the Haddington Road review.

In February the Department of Justice made a submission to that review. A spokesman said the review’s terms of reference “limit the review to how the resources available to An Garda Síochána can be used”.

It does not envisage that additional resources are to be made available within this particular process”.It is believed the review will have to be cost neutral and be carried out through more flexible rosters and cuts to overtime spending.

At its annual conference the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, which represent middle ranking members of the force, revealed that in a survey 93% called for work-to rule action over pay restoration.

AGSI general secretary John Jacob said pay had been cut by 25% since 2008 among their 2,000 members. He said 86% had supported a march on the Dáil and 70% backed regular pickets which would increase in frequency.

A summer of industrial action?  What the key industrial groups want

Teachers

The pay gap for new entrants to the profession and the requirement to work an additional 33 hours per year are two of the areas which exercised teachers most at their recent annual conferences.

At the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland conference the delegates voted, subject to summer ballot of all 18,000 members, to cease working the extra 33 hours which they had been delivering since 2011 under the Croke Park agreement and more recently the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA).

They said the requirement to work the extra hours should cease at the end of June when HRA expires.

The ASTI also voted at its conference in favour of balloting for strike action if the pay gap was not closed between new entrants to the profession and more established teachers.

The other secondary level union, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) already has a mandate for strike action on that.

The conferences heard estimates of between €100,000 to €300,000 as to how much less will be earned over a 40-year career by those who started in recent years in comparison to longer-serving colleagues. The claim is that cuts to salary scales and withdrawal of allowances for qualifications have placed some newly qualified teachers on annual earnings of €9,000 a year less than counterparts.

The Department of Education linked the teachers’ two grievances. It warned that teachers could lose the chance to narrow the pay gap for younger staff if they voted to stop doing extra work.

It said the HRA had been extended to 2017 through the Lansdowne Road Agreement and the 33 hours were a continuing element of the agreement.

A spokesman told this newspaper: “Stepping outside the LRA would have consequences for members of a union... these include a freeze on increments, loss of specific salary improvements and salary restoration for teachers, other specific benefits for fixed-term and part-time teachers, and other protections provided for under the collective agreement, such as compulsory redundancy.”

A summer of industrial action?  What the key industrial groups want

Irish Rail

Staff at Irish Rail had already been signalling their desire for a pay increase prior to the events at the Luas, but when the size of the increase being proposed for tram drivers became evident, it precipitated a similarly significant claim from the National Bus and Rail Union on behalf of its members at the rail company.

The 25% demand was made up of “pay rises in line with industry norms” of up to 19% as well as a further 6% claim which the union said its members had not been paid following the Towards 2016 agreement in 2009.

The demand was accompanied by a refusal to operate the proposed new 10-minute Dart service which had been due to go live at the start of April but which has now been put on hold.

Irish Rail said the claim was “not grounded in reality” given the company’s current financial status. It said it “remained in a very difficult financial position with annual losses, and an accumulated deficit of €135m, and is only paying wages and bills through loans”.

Irish Rail warned staff representatives that in 2016 it had assumed €1.4m in income from the 10-minute Dart service and that it would be compensating for that loss through further cost savings.

The National Bus and Rail Union appears willing to enter into a battle, with its general secretary Dermot O’Leary telling the company: “The anger which has been building up among the workforce at Iarnród Éireann can only be sated in one of two ways, either through our requested dialogue or through mandated industrial action, given a choice we would choose the former. The ball is very much with Iarnród Éireann and its sole shareholder.”

A summer of industrial action?  What the key industrial groups want

Luas

The Luas dispute is confined to Dublin, but its influence is being felt across the industrial relations sphere.

The submission of a pay claim of over 50% was audacious given norms across the private sector and was never likely to be agreed. However, the subsequent rejection of up to 18% including a 7% long-service increment has really driven a wedge between the two sides in what is an ongoing and increasingly acrimonious dispute.

In the talks that precipitated that 18% offer, the Luas workers had moderated its claim to about 27%.

The company said what was on offer meant a driver on €42,247 would have received an increase, taking their salary to €50,000 by January 2019 plus a bonus of €3,250, making an overall salary level of €53,250.

When their representatives emerged with the reduced percentage, however, the staff rejected it due to the productivity conditions, as well as a 10% reduced rate for new entrants, though those workers would still start on €31,000. With no resolution in prospect — and staff representative union Siptu engaging in a spat with Kieran Mulvey, head of the Workplace Relations Commission, which had been mediating between the sides, the company, faced with crippling losses as a result of further strikes, upped the ante last week by threatening protective notice and potential layoffs. In response Siptu warned of a potential all-out strike which would stop the service altogether.

Nurses

In recent weeks, it has been their battle for improvements in the country’s emergency departments which has seen nurses hitting the headlines.

However, in recent days, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Liam Doran has spoken out about the need for a quicker recovery in pay and conditions.

He said his members wanted an “acceptable” timeframe for restoration of what, he said, was still over 10% of pay cuts that remained outstanding.

“We [in nursing] have a huge labour market problem which is that the pay is simply not attractive enough to attract and retain staff,” he said.

Mr Doran said that that “labour market” challenge could only be met by an upward adjustment in pay and conditions saying that his union would certainly be seeking that “before the year is out”.

The union has had its successes. Along with other health unions, it managed to negotiate the restoration of premium pay of time plus sixth which was removed from nurses and midwives under the Haddington Road Agreement.

The Lansdowne Road Agreement has also seen pay rates for 1,400 student nurses and midwives per year increased for their final year placement from 55% of the first point of the staff nurse salary scale to 70%.

A summer of industrial action?  What the key industrial groups want

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