A circular arrived from Tom Geraghty during the week. Geraghty is head of the Public Service Executive Union. He is also, unfortunatley, the head of the Public Sector Committee in ICTU and was therefore one of “our” “lead negotiators” in Croke Park 2.
This was a pity, because my understanding is that his entire union experience has been in the Social Partnership era, where the union “leaders” and figures such as Bertie Ahern and Charlie McCreevy sat around a table and decided what percentage increase everyone (including them) would get and sure isn’t life grand, all the same, and pass the canapés, please.
To remind people, thanks to the Celtic Tiger, public servants needed the Benchmarking deal to ensure that an average civil servant could afford, with a partner, and a hefty mortgage, and many years, to buy a house. The Benchmarking II deal a couple of years later said no, we got it right first time, and gave very small increases to a tiny number of grades. Then the Tiger died, and we got a pay freeze, then a pay cut averaging more than the Benchmarking increase, and a pension levy and universal social charge (which turned “temporary” levies into permanent ones), and… Long story short – civil and public servants have already played our part to bail the country out of a mess not of our making.
So we had a “Croke Park deal” – which is supposed to run until the end of 2014, except the government changed their minds. And Croke Park 2 was negotiated, without any input from general union membership, and to Geraghty’s shock, was roundly rejected, because enough, already.
Austerity. Does. Not. Work.
Anyway – here’s Geraghty’s letter to his members (in italics), and my comments:
30 April, 2013.
Dear Branch Secretary,
As you know, the Government has asked the LRC to see if it can identify any potential basis for agreement on its proposals to cut the Public Service pay bill by €300m this year and €1Bn by the end of 2015.
Fair enough so far.
The LRC is contacting all unions individually this week and we have spoken to them. The Government asked them to convey the following:
€300m in savings from the pay bill will be achieved this year and €1bn will be achieved by the end of 2015. There is no question of these amounts being made up through increased taxation and/or cuts in other areas. The cuts will be applied to the pay bill
What? Why not? Why, exactly, can there be no increase in taxation? When I started work, there were three tax rates – a reduction from previous times when there were more, going up to 60%, I believe, if not more! What, exactly, is so, so wrong with a 48% tax rate on amounts over €100,000 (a far, far smaller tax take than used to exist in the 80s!)
The Government remains interested in seeking agreement on how these cuts can be
achieved and is open to all suggestions. However, if agreement cannot be reached, the
Government will take the steps necessary to achieve these reductions
The Government is clearly being extremely hopeful, here. What, they want us to break into even smaller factions, each trying to protect their own interests and point at that other lot, over there, who should face cuts, but not us!
If agreement cannot be reached the Government has identified a range of measures that will achieve the cuts through imposition
The Government has not identified a range of measures, Robert Watt, the Secretary General of DPER, has decided to attack family-friendly policies, because of reasons.
There would, in those circumstances, be two stages to the process. The immediate
requirement to save €300m would be met through legislation to give effect to permanent
cuts in pay above €65K, (of unspecified amounts), and the abolition of increments for all
Public Servants. This would be supplemented by reductions in overtime, premium
payments etc., which would not require legislation. If agreement cannot be reached, the
Government envisages a start date of 1 June 2013, rather than 1 July 2013
This is the Government threatening its workers, pure and simple. Banning increments is sheer crazy. Hey, you, executive officer on €32,687! You thought after ten years satisfactory service with no promotion, you’d be on €47,975? Wrong! You’ll be on: €32,687! Enjoy the motivation! (In the civil service, there are two clerical grades on lower pay than executive officers. A clerical officer starts on €23,177, and after 12 years satisfactory service can aspire to €35,471).
Banning increments and cutting pay would, of course, require legislation. This would need to be introduced by Brendan Howlin, a Labour minister.
In the year of the Great Lockout’s centenary, a Labour minister is going to avoid a moderate tax increase on the well off and will instead legislate to ban increments and cut wages even further.
The climbdown on this one, I predict, will be even more embarrassing than when Howlin was set up to take a prattfall over the elimination of allowances.
If there is no agreement, Government would achieve further cost savings through
increased use of outsourcing
Without agreement, Government would not be constrained from enforcing compulsory
redundancies, where deemed necessary, nor would there be any limits on redeployment
In addition to rate changes, further savings on overtime and premium rates would be
achieved through roster changes and reductions in the amounts of overtime etc. worked
Overtime? I remember that! (The work – got outsourced…)
Later this year in the absence of agreement, in advance of the next Budget year,
Government would move to implement increased working hours and wider pay cuts, in
order to achieve the €1Bn savings required.
Oh, more threats.
That’s a great way to start new negotiations…
One of the “money-saving” actions is to increase the working week across the board by a minimum of two hours. Fair enough, probably, in some areas. In others, less so. In fact, counter-productive.
My own workplace could do with more manpower to replace some of those we’ve lost, but we’re still mostly keeping pace with work. My own section’s role sees most tasks done on time. So – we’d be sitting around staring into space or surfing the internet for two extra hours a week. With light and heat and aircon being paid for? And no money for new projects? And the staff – who’ve had their increments frozen – get to pay for extra childcare…
The preceding bit is all government. The next bit is all Geraghty.
This Union asked the LRC to convey back to Government the clear message that members of this Union voted in favour of the LRC proposals and that any attempt to go beyond these proposals through unilateral actions would be unacceptable to the Union and would meet resistance.
The Union also pointed out to the LRC that if there is any potential for modification of the proposals then this Union had a long list of issues that it would wish to have discussed and modified, which covered the full range of concessions/disimprovements set out in the LRC proposals. Furthermore, that as the members of this Union had made the sensible and rational decision to vote in favour of the LRC proposals, the Union would insist that its issues would be taken seriously if there was to be any “tweaking” or modification of these proposals.
Well, Jebus. That was embarrassing…
The LRC is to complete this exploration exercise by next week. It is likely that Government will make its decisions in the following week, in the event that the LRC is unable to identify a possible basis for an agreed outcome. Members will be kept advised of developments.
“We were the good boys, we even voted for Croke Park 2, please be nice to us! Or – or – we’ll offer some resistance!” is the best Geraghty can come up with. Really?
I really hope the ICTU Public Services Committee replace him before the 2.1 negotiations start…