Wed, May 19, 2010
OPINION: Alternative to deal is not industrial mayhem, writes DAVE HUGHES
IT IS considered almost heresy to speak against the so-called Croke Park deal. A tyranny of consensus has emerged that voting against it means industrial mayhem in the public service, and bedlam for the public. The opposite to having an agreement, it is suggested, is going on strike.
The opposite to having an agreement is simply not having one. And that is not such a terrible thing in these uncertain times. The deal binds only one party – the public sector worker. The Government has said it will not be bound by it in an “unforeseen budgetary deterioration”; the clarification is that they will tell Congress of their intention to depart from it before they actually do it.
We are told the deal will give certainty that there will be no further pay cuts. Well, it does not. It says your pay will not be cut if you comply with the agreement, particularly redeployment and flexibility. So if you do not accept redeployment of up to 45km from your base, can your pay be cut?
You have heard it guarantees no compulsory redundancy, but again this is conditional on total compliance with the agreement, especially on redeployment and flexibility. The Croke Park proposals are highly conditional promises in return for absolute compliance with Government policy, no matter how mistaken or unfairly applied. It requires the silencing of those who dare to defend their service, job or community. It is in fact industrial peace against a threat of further pay cuts for noncompliance.
For nurses and midwives this means, among other things:
a) that the health service will lose 3,500 acute beds in a situation where hundreds wait on trolleys every day as it is;
b) that 6,000 jobs must go when already almost 2,000 nurses and midwives have been lost in the past two years; and
c) continuation of the health service-crippling moratorium.
It’s hard to conceive such an outcome for a campaign which brought people to the streets for the protection of public services and restoration of pay.
The proposals are bad for nurses and midwives, patients of the health service, the community in need of public services – and they are also bad for Ireland. Voting no will not lead to nurses and midwives going on strike.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has put forward alternative ways of delivering the health service within budget. Voting no means bringing an end to the current campaign of action, and an acceptance that it has failed. Any further campaign will only happen following a ballot of all members and a new mandate. Those who say there is no alternative are wrong.
The Croke Park proposals cannot be presented as a success. They are a failure on every count. They will not lead to a restoration of pay in 2011, and the annual review mentioned therein is already there by law.
The proposals require acceptance of every policy of this Government to reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of GDP by 2014 in a situation where it is now 15 per cent of GDP, and the situation has worsened since the proposals emerged. They do not guarantee pay; do not prevent compulsory redundancy; and require union consent to a continuation of the moratorium, which is crippling the health service.
The proposals are a failure for nurses and midwives, and cannot be seen as a successful outcome to a campaign of resistance.
There is no shame in conceding defeat, and to attempt to convince members that such a defeat represents success or the best option is delusional. Not having an agreement is far better than having a bad one. Even those most in favour of the Croke Park proposals concede that this is such an agreement if it is made.
David Hughes is deputy general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation
© 2010 The Irish Times