Frontline workers' 'solo run' leaves union stance fragmented
on 13/02/2013 00:00:00
"It is not helpful," said one public service source.
"It makes it harder to reach an agreement and take a united trade union response. What is irritating is that [the alliance stance] implies the ICTU public services committee is not taking into account that they, like others, have particular interests and issues that they need to protect. It's making a direct appeal to politicians outside the negotiating process which any one of us could do. If the largest unions were to act like that, there would be no negotiation."
There is broad acceptance that the nurses, gardaí, and prison officers have a valid concern - they do stand to lose a significant amount of their wages if the allowances and premium payments are cut.
Nonetheless, the non-emergency staff say one could equally argue that teachers would be disproportionately affected through cuts to supervision and cuts, that the higher echelons will suffer disproportionately by plans to cut top-level pay.
"The alliance is focusing on overtime and Sunday payments and saying 'it is unfair because it targets us', but what we are saying is that you have to look at the whole package before you can make a decision as to whether it is unfair or falling heavily on one group," said the source.
"The objective of the union side is to attempt to have an overall package that is equitable. If you reverse the argument and said, for example, the high paid should be exempt, you would not get too much buy-in. It is the same with overtime and premium payments. It is a significant element of the public service pay bill that has not been touched heavily."
From the outset, the public service stance is that the burden of the €1bn should be spread equally among all public servants, in particular that the hit on higher earners is commensurate with their ability to pay.
Therefore, the wider public service union body would point out to the alliance that if a deal does emerge from the negotiations, it will actually have to incorporate the core argument being put forward by the emergency service representatives.
At present the Ictu public services committee is still in negotiations with the Government side on how to address increases in the working week for staff.
That issue, along with the cuts to the higher paid, allowances, and accelerated head count reductions affect most areas of the public service. Once the potential savings from those areas can be identified, it will tell both sides how much more needs to be found from individual sectors.