SIPTU welcomes talks on injustice of lower pay for new entrants to public service

SIPTU representatives have welcomed a decision by the Government to enter discussions with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) on the issue of lower pay scales for new entrants to the public service.

The agreement follows representations to the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohue, by the Public Services Committee (PSC) of the ICTU on the new entrants’ pay differential.

A report published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) today (16th March) found that some 58,000 new entrants to the public sector have been adversely affected by the unilateral cut to their pay scale imposed in 2011. The report estimated that it would cost an estimated €200 million to resolve the problem, in a full year.

SIPTU and other public service unions had opposed the lower pay scales when they were imposed by Government during the economic crisis and sought to resolve the issue during negotiations for the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) last year and previously the Haddington Road Agreement.

It was confirmed by DEPR today that discussions to resolve the injustice of lower pay scales for new entrants are to take place.

“SIPTU members have consistently argued that it was unfair of the Government to cut the entry grade of pay for workers joining the public service, since 2011. We now have an opportunity to resolve this injustice through dialogue within the terms of the PSSA,” said SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell.

Congress General Secretary Patricia King said that securing new talks on the issue marked “a significant step towards the resolution of this long-standing problem, which resulted from a unilateral government decision to cut new entrants’ pay, in 2011. This development will, in the context of the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement, allow this dialogue to commence.
“At its most basic, this was and remains a simple issue of fairness and equality. The decision to cut entry grade pay across the public service was never endorsed or accepted by trade unions and we have consistently sought to bring this injustice to an end.” Ms King said.
A report on the issue published today (16th March) by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) found that some 60,000 new entrants to the public sector has been adversely affected by the unilateral cut imposed in 2011 and that it would cost an estimated €200 million to resolve the problem, in a full year.

SIPTU to authorise strike ballots unless Government opens talks on public service pay

SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, has said that the union will authorise ballots for industrial action, including strike action, among its 60,000 members in the public service unless the Government sets an early date for the opening of talks on pay and related matters.

 Speaking at the union’s Public Administration and Community Division biennial conference today, Jack O’Connor said:

“We utterly reject the assertion that there is no money and that it is a choice between pay increases and services for the public.  This is an absolutely false dichotomy.  The fact of the matter is that the Government made choices in the budget.  For example, it decided to continue to gift business in the hotel and hospitality sector with special VAT concessions costing more than €600m per annum at the tax-payers expense.  They chose to do so despite the fact that the industry has fully recovered. 

“Moreover, they chose to retain this very costly VAT concession notwithstanding the fact that employers in the industry continue to refuse to participate in the Joint Labour Committee to negotiate some improvement for their employees who are the lowest paid workers in the country.  At very least, the Government should have insisted that generous concessions at the tax-payers expense, which are no longer necessary, should be accompanied by some modicum of social responsibility.

“In addition to squandering this huge amount of tax-payers and public money it also decided to splurge a further €46 million on gifting for the wealthy through cutting capital taxes.  Even now, at the eleventh hour, it is not too late to amend the Finance Bill to generate additional revenues to facilitate a negotiation.  This could be done by amending the provisions relating to the taxation of vulture funds and others engaged in property speculation as well as radically tightening up on tax evasion.  (This has been addressed in depth by, among others, Independent TD Stephen Donnelly).

“We fully respect the right of every trade union to take such action as it deems necessary, in the interests of its members, and especially to address the injustice of lower entry rates.  However, the problem is that once and group embarks on a solo run, everyone else will have to follow. This is because it could lead to a situation that any resources that are available will be absorbed in settling these individual disputes and there will be nothing left for anyone else.  Accordingly, it is now imperative that the Government sets an early date for the commencement of talks to renegotiate the Lansdowne Road Agreement. 

I am today calling on the Government to issue an immediate invitation to the Public Services Committee of ICTU for the opening of talks which should commence not later than the 1st February, 2017. 

“Moreover, if they do not do so before this day week, our National Executive Council will authorise any negotiating group of members, who are covered by the Lansdowne Road Agreement, and who wish to do so, to commence balloting for industrial action and/or strike action in pursuit of their demands. 

“This is not the way we want things to proceed.  There is absolutely no doubt that a national agreement is best for all Public Service workers.  Everyone has far more leverage in negotiations for an agreement that would cover all of the 300,000 workers involved, than trying to do it one group at a time, in isolation.  That is why we strongly believe that the negotiations should be conducted by the Public Services Committee of Congress on which all the unions affected, are represented.   It is also actually better for the people of Ireland, who they serve, because of the stability and coherence it provides. 

“However, the terms of an agreement must be relevant to the circumstances that apply. Economic conditions have improved considerably more rapidly than those which were envisaged when the Lansdowne Road agreement was negotiated.  Moreover, what is at issue is pay restoration and addressing deplorably low entry rates which were introduced in economic circumstances which no longer apply.  That is why I pointed out in the public arena, in advance of the budget, that it was time to renegotiate Lansdowne Road.  In the past, agreements have been amended to take account of changed conditions.   That is how the Haddington Road Agreement came about in the middle of 2013, when the economy deteriorated to an unexpected degree.”

Please note the SIPTU Health Division intends on seeking approval for industrial action across all grades if our demands are not met. Members can stay informed here or on our App.

SIPTU Health members demand swift action on pay

SIPTU members endorsed a demand for a new deal on pay for health workers at the union’s recent Health Division Biennial Conference.

Addressing delegates, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The message from our members to the Government is loud, clear and decisive. We want to reclaim the ground lost since the economic collapse and win a new deal for health that is underpinned by better health care for patients and better jobs for health workers.

“This new deal must include the Government agreeing to accelerated pay restoration, real pay progression and a commitment to pay justice for new entrants to the health service workforce.”

He added: “In preparation for our conference today, over 1,000 SIPTU Health members across the country participated in a targeted workplace survey. These members, drawn from every sector we represent, made their views known concerning what is the number one priority for themselves and their colleagues in the workplace.

“Over 70% of survey respondents stated that pay restoration through the abolition of the pension levy, pay progression for low and middle earners and pay justice for new entrants that came into the service during the economic emergency was their primary concern. At this conference, we are publicly delivering this clear message from our members to the Government.”

Liberty View

A resolute determination was evident in union leaders’ addresses and contributions from members, as the conference examined the work done over the last two years and decided on the Division’s future agenda. Delegates discussed the organising campaigns that have successfully brought together Health Care Assistants and workers in the Intellectual Disability Sector to fight for better conditions through their union.The message was clear from more than 200 delegates who attended the SIPTU Health Division Biennial Delegate Conference in Liberty Hall on 13th-14th October – our union has weathered the economic storm and is now set on the path of reclaiming the ground lost by workers in recent years.

Clear demands for speedy pay restoration and increased funding of the public health service solidified around the conference’s slogan of a ‘New Deal for Health’.

However, there was also a focus on the union’s wider social justice mandate with a voluntary worker at a Calais refugee campaign delivering a heart-rending account of conditions there. This ensured that a motion calling on the union to intervene both nationally and internationally to assist the plight of refugees was passed unanimously.

Our members in the health service have set a high standard for enthusiasm and determination which, no doubt, will be maintained by the other divisions of the union as the conference season progresses.

Download a copy of the SIPTU Health BDC agenda HERE

Results of Pay Survey will be announced on Monday, November 7th.

Have your say on the future of our health services

Paul Bell, SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser discusses the future of the Lansdowne Road Agreement

Chair and composition of Public Service Pay Commission crucial to its credibility, say public service unions

The following statement was issued by the ICTU Public Services Committee today (Tuesday) after the Cabinet approved the establishment of a Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC).

“The Public Services Committee (PSC) of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is ready to engage with Minister Paschal Donohoe and his officials on the terms of reference of the proposed Public Services Pay Commission. Following earlier discussions with Minister Donohoe and his officials, we believe that the Commission has the potential to assist in both the unwinding of the FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) legislation, and in addressing other outstanding issues of concern to public servants.

The credibility of the proposed Commission, in the eyes of public employees and others, will depend on it being chaired by a highly qualified and fully independent expert with a deep understanding of public service pay determination and related issues, including from an employee perspective.

Similarly, its membership will have to be balanced and appropriately weighted to properly reflect all issues outlined in the terms of reference. Among other things, this will require an adequate number of members with a trade union background and experience of public service remuneration and related matters.

The PSC understands that the PSPC will not replace direct pay negotiations between the Government and public service unions. This welcome assurance reflects the position put to the PSC in various engagements with Minister Donohoe and his officials.

The PSC also understands that any international pay comparisons made by the Commission will take account of the cost of living in the jurisdictions examined. This is also welcome.

We understand that trade unions and others will be invited to make submissions to the Commission, and that its findings and evidence will be published, and we will engage in the process on this basis.”