Date Released: 22 February 2013
There has been a considerable amount of media speculation in recent weeks as to the potential outcome of the negotiations which are underway between SIPTU, other public service unions and the Government. Much of this speculation has been ill informed and indeed some of it has been generated by groups who are not involved in, and have no relevance to, the process. We have and will continue to conduct the negotiations in a professional manner and we understand that our members will decide to accept or reject any proposals which may emerge.
Over the coming hours and days, the talks will centre on the issues of working hours, overtime and the pay of higher grades in the public service. The SIPTU representatives have made it clear in talks today that the union will not accept any increase to the 39 hours worked by its members. They have also dismissed, as unacceptable, the employer demand for an increase of five hours in the working week for members working less than 39 hours. Members will be kept informed of developments in the negotiations.
Why are we talking to the government now?
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform wrote to the Public Services Committee in November of 2012 to advise that the Government needed to make additional savings in the order of €I billion over the next three years. It was as clear to us then, as it is now, that the intention is to make these savings by any means necessary including an across the board pay cut and compulsory redundancies. For that reason, our union's National Executive Council took the view that we as a Union needed to do our utmost to shape and influence the way this €1 billion adjustment is made.
Where did the €l billion come from?
The economy has not grown to the extent that was envisaged when the first Public Service Agreement was signed in 2010. Unemployment has remained consistently high and this has meant that the original savings were not enough. SIPTU has consistently argued for a new course rather than the terms of the bailout and recovery plan which are being pursued. We have articulated an alternative which we believe will stimulate the economy and provide jobs. The growth envisaged has not happened and this has created a need to make a further €I billion adjustment.
What do we hope to achieve?
The Government has stated its intention to make the necessary savings. We are acutely aware of the potential impact of this on our members. We are aware that our members have already shouldered a significant portion of the burden of this recovery. However, we also know that without an agreement our members' jobs are vulnerable to outsourcing and their pay is at risk. Our central objective in these talks is to protect the jobs, pay and working conditions of our members.
Will there be an agreement?
As we enter the final stages of these discussions it is by no means certain that we will be able to reach an agreement as there is a gulf between the parties. However our negotiators have committed to staying at the table until we have exhausted every opportunity to develop a set of proposals. If any such proposals emerge from these discussions only our public service members can accept or reject them in a ballot.
Yours in solidarity,
Patricia King, SIPTU Vice President
Gene Mealy, SIPTU Public Administration Division Organiser
Paul Bell, SIPTU Health Division Organiser