Industrial action in the health service and other parts of the public sector is now threatened following the collapse of the proposed new Croke Park deal.
The country’s largest public service union,SIPTU, which includes 45,000 health service workers, has rejected the ‘Croke Park 11’ proposals by a margin of 53.7% against and 46.3% in favour.
The SIPTU vote, however, is expected to lead to the collapse of the Croke Park Deal extension proposals, as they cannot be sanctioned by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) without the support of SIPTU, which is the largest union in the country.
The IMPACT union, which also represents health service workers, has voted by 56% to 46% to accept the new Croke Park deal.
The Government may now move to legislate for the implementation of pay cuts in the public sector in the absence of overall union agreement on the Croke Park proposals. This would put the Government on a collision course with the unions.
Commenting on the result, SIPTU General President Jack O’Connor said that the vote reflected the sense of grievance among working people and public service workers, in particular, ‘that they are carrying an excessive burden in the post-crisis adjustment.’
SIPTU and the INMO urged the Government not to legislate for pay cuts. The INMO said this would ‘inevitably result in major disagreement and a potential dispute.’
The HSE needed to save €150 million this year from planned pay savings under the Croke Park deal in order to stay within budget.
The health executive’s latest performance report says this sum had yet to be allocated to its budgetary calculations pending the outcome of the public service pay agreement extension.
In the absence of these pay savings, the HSE may be forced to cut services to balance its books.
The ‘Croke Park 11’ measures included pay and allowance cuts of between 5.5% and 10% for those with salaries above €65,000 -and the reduction of premium rates for staff working on Sundays from double time to 1.75 times the normal hourly rate.
Other overtime rateswere to be cut to time and half for those on less than €35,000 and time and a quarter for those earning more than €35,000. Staff currently on a 39 hour week would do an unpaid hour’s overtime.
Basic pay of staff earning over €185,000 was due to be be cut by 10%.
The deal provided for a three year increments freeze for staff earning more than €65,000, those earning below €35,000 faced a three month increment freeze, while those paid between €35,000 and and €65,000 faced two three-month freezes.
The full list has not been released, but it is thought to include a Gaeltacht allowance for nurses in Irish-speaking areas and a Locomotive allowance for senior gardaí who use their private cars for work.
They are set be abolished by the end of February.
“This is core pay, breach of Croke Park [Agreement], and whatever we have to do to protect our members’ pay we will do so,” he said.
“If people want to consolidate those allowances into pay, which we asked for many years ago, well then we’ll have that discussion.
“But we will not be getting into negotiations where we see the elimination or further cuts in people’s salary, that’s not where we are and we won’t be there.”