Monday, February 25 15:40:56
The country's largest trade union SIPTU has warned that the Croke Park II deal struck with Government today could still be rejected by union members.
"I'm satisfied the proposal is the best one that could be achieved through negotiation," said Siptu president Jack O'Connor. "But industrial action is not off the cards. The majority of union members may decide to reject this proposal."
The government agreed with the largest public-sector trade unions on Monday to extend a pay deal that has been credited with avoiding the kind of industrial unrest seen in other crisis-hit euro zone countries.
The update to the Croke Park agreement would provide savings of 1 billion euros over three years, a key part of government efforts to meet targets under Ireland's 85 billion euro EU-IMF bailout.
But the deal still needs the approval of hundreds of thousands of union members, while the leadership of six smaller trade unions have walked out since talks started at the beginning of the year.
The deal guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies in the public service, but will see workers earning more than 65,000 euros a year accept pay cuts of 5 to 10 percent, the government said in a statement.
Public servants will also be asked to work longer hours, have their overtime payments reduced, while those who work on a Sunday will receive a 75 percent premium, down from 100 percent at present.
The government in recent weeks had threatened that if there was no agreement on the 1 billion euros of cuts that it would introduce them unilaterally.
Minister Brendan Howlin today refused to be drawn on what would happen if the unions rejected the measures, but said there would be no alternative to the deal which was agreed after talks went through the night.
"Either we do it on the payroll side or we cut front line services further - health , education, social protection. There are no simple choices here," Howlin told Newstalk Radio.
The six unions that left the talks, who represent the police, nurses and lower-paid civil servants, account for around one-third of Ireland's near-300,000 public sector workers.