Rather bizarrely, the trade union leaders who negotiated the text of the Croke Park deal, found it necessary to go back to the LRC to clarify what exactly they had negotiated. This was after it became plain that they were finding it impossible to sell the proposals to the union membership. How could they have been unclear on such important issues after weeks of behind the scenes contact and days of intensive meetings and after having emerged with a draft agreement that was perfectly understandable to everyone who read it? This should raise immediate suspicions about the purpose and intent of the supposed clarifications, particularly in light of the fact that Peter McLoone, IMPACT General Secretary, the originator of the idea of ‘public service transformation’ and chief negotiator on the union side, found himself unable to sell the proposals to the IMPACT Executive. It was immediately then that the clarification idea emerged.
The main clarification text entitled DRAFT PUBLIC SECTOR AGREEMENT 2010-2014 CLARIFICATION (06-05-10) is analysed point by point below. There are other clarifications for specific sectors. Anything they say must be read in light of what the main text says and must be subjected to the same level of critique.
The Issue of trust.
First and foremost, the clarifications depend entirely on the Government being worthy of trust. There is absolutely no reason to trust this government. It broke its word before when it reneged completely on the Toward 2116 deal. It will do the same again if that suits it. The unions by accepting such a deal will demonstrate that there is no willingness to protect Public Servants, so the Government will conclude as it has done on every occasion up to now that it has nothing to fear from them. Only a trade union movement that is a threat has to be treated honourably. So what then do the clarifications actually say? Quotes from the clarification text are in italics below. They are accompanied by appropriate commentary.
Will there be further pay cuts?
“It is the expressed intention and expectation of the Government that there will be no further reductions in the remuneration of employees…… subject to compliance with the terms of the Draft Agreement.”
Nothing has changed there. If the Government can cut pay and public servant numbers sufficiently through the ‘agreement’, it will not need to cut pay outside the agreement.
What of the Government ‘let-out’ clause?
The idea of all bets being off if there is “unforeseen budgetary deterioration…..will be applied in a bona fide manner by the Government side….” is hardly a clarification. What else would a Government say… that it is going to implement the proposals in a “dishonourable and deceitful manner?” That is just waffle.
“Similar clauses have applied in previous agreements………” When, where and who knew about them? The statement that “…it is not envisaged that, on the basis of any currently known facts, that the clause would be utilised,” is the definition of the word “unforeseen.” If those facts were known, then they would not be “unforeseen.” This kind of language demonstrates the duplicity of the whole “clarification” process.
“It is confirmed that, in the event that such a situation was to arise [Government deciding to renege on its commitments], the parties would meet at central level (i.e. Government/ICTU) to discuss the circumstances that had arisen …..”
That, in the event that the Government does see fit to renege on the deal (as it did before with T16), the Government and ICTU would meet, is hardly much reassurance. The meetings between the Government and ICTU have up to now led to the pension levy, the pay cuts and the present sell out on pay and conditions of service. Why would anyone believe that there is some kind of protection in meetings between the Government and ICTU? Every time they meet, public servants are further sold down the river.
“The Unions have made it clear that in the event of the Government invoking that provision [to renege on the deal] the unions will cease to be bound by the terms of the Draft Agreement.” It beggars belief that this is included as a clarification. What would unions do? Abide by the agreement while the Government throws it in the bin? The more worrying issue is that all the relocations, redundancies (see below) and general destruction of conditions of service will prove impossible to reverse, once in place, irrespective of what the Government does. Again, this illustrates how the ‘Clarification’ document is nothing but a piece of badly constructed propaganda.
Will the pay cuts be reversed?
It is evident that there is no promise at all on pay restoration – quite the opposite a five year pay freeze is guaranteed. “Savings generated from the implementation of the Agreement and the agreements in each of the sectors will be used, in a manner to be agreed between the parties, to commence the process of addressing the effect on pay rates……” This is no promise at all. Firstly the Government has to agree and, with such weakened and redundant trade unions, it will do as it pleases. Secondly, it is only a promise to “begin addressing the effect on pay rates……. and reducing the effect of the pension levy.” If there was any serious intent to reverse the pay cuts and the pension levy, then that would be unequivocally stated. ‘Beginning to address the pay cuts,’ could mean anything or nothing.
Will there be compulsory redundancies?
Of course the proposals did not include a provision for compulsory redundancies. Everyone knew that already. The redundancies will arise when individuals are forced to redeploy to another job elsewhere in the country and when they cannot move house or when the jobs offered are completely unacceptable to them. They will then be deemed to have resigned. This will not be called redundancy. The clarification makes it clear that the intention is the same. “The Government have made this commitment on the basis that the redeployment arrangements in the Draft Agreement are utilised as an alternative to redundancy where staff have become surplus…….” Of course there will be no need for use of the redundancy word when the ‘redeployment’ word sounds better and does the same thing as is stated in black and white in the clarification.
Will public servants be redeployed anywhere in the country?
The only clarification that would be of any value here is a clear statement on how far away from their current jobs, public servants will be relocated to. Nothing of the kind exists in the clarification. The 45k limit, regularly repeated in the press and in union documents, is a complete fiction. If any such limit were intended, it would have been stated in this clarification document. It isn’t there! There is no such limit – no limit at all. Once again, you find a ‘trust us – we are reasonable people’ demand. Redeployment “will be operated in a reasonable manner and with due regard for the personal circumstances of public servants. There will not be serial or multiple redeployments and the work location from which the first location is proposed/home address of staff will be used to determine the radius for any redeployment.”
“A reasonable manner, due regard for circumstances, used to determine;” in short, no protections at all. The Government will decide (and of course the arbitration process will do its bidding as will the unions that are selling this deal) what is reasonable and how they will determine where anyone is to be relocated to. If there was intended to be any genuine protection here, a specific maximum distance of relocation would be stated. It isn’t. There is no protection.
Are pensions to be cut?
There will be “no change in the current arrangements for the indexation of pensions for current public service pensioners and serving public servants…….during the period of the Agreement.”
The current indexation arrangements are that pensions increase in line with the pay of the grade. Since it is part of the agreement that there will be no pay increases and pay has already been decreased to a great extent, why would the government want this arrangement to change? The alternative, that pay would be indexed to the cost of living, could result over the next four years in income increases for pensioners. The clarification just reminds us all that the Government has got its way and will continue to do so. No pay increases and no pension increases, no matter what kind of recovery happens in the economy and no matter how much semi state and private sector pay increases.
As for the pensions of future public servants, the changes there will be determined by a “separate process….independent of the terms of the draft agreement.” In other words, pensions for future public servants will be drastically reduced if the Government gets its way – which it certainly will if the current union leaders are still in place – whether the Croke Park proposals are rejected or accepted. It follows, then, that the only way to protect future pensions and, by so doing, to protect the future of the public services as a desirable career choice in Ireland is to stop the union leaders from selling out the future. They can only be stopped if the Croke Park sell-out is rejected and the current collaborationist trade union leadership is replaced by one that will fight to protect the public services.
Will public services continue to be axed?
Yes. “The Government has confirmed that its policy on staff numbers in the Public Service is a matter which is independent of the Draft Public Service Agreement.”
The government has made no secret of the fact that it plans to drastically reduce the number of public servants. The OECD made clear in its analysis before any of the current cuts began that the number of public servants in Ireland and the size of the public service were small for a country of our wealth and population. The sole and only way to further cut numbers is to cut services to the public. Talk of efficiencies is just a smokescreen. If the Danes, the Dutch, The Germans, the French and the British cannot deliver good services with so few public servants, then the Irish can’t do so either. The objective of course is precisely that – not to be like other European countries – but to emulate the United States. Lets those who cannot afford to buy services such as health, education, housing and so on, simply do without. The plan is to create a permanent poverty stricken underclass so as to ensure that the wealthy do not have to pay their fair share of tax and that the already extreme poverty-wealth gap is widened and imbedded forever in the structure of Irish society.
On ‘Outsourcing,’ the clarification document states: “The Appendix dealing with Service Delivery Options (outsourcing) has general application across the public service.” In other words, no area will be spared. There will be a shift from public service provision to private sector provision everywhere right across the system. That is a shift from traditionally secure, reasonably paid, unionised employment to minimum wage, insecure, non unionised exploitative employment. Small wonder this clarification is so brief and includes no explanation or commentary at all.
Nothing in the clarifications alters in any way the plan to destroy and privatise the public services in Ireland. They simply reiterate that such is the plan.
The clarifications mean nothing. The process is just a cynical propaganda ploy orchestrated by trade union leaders, the LRC and the Government to trick public servants into voting the way they want them to vote – for the Croke Park proposals. This is just the latest episode in the sorry tale of treachery by our union leaders who long ago ideologically joined the right wing elite in Ireland. The real objective of the right wing elite, in control of big business, government and trade unions, vis a vis the public services, is not so much to balance the books without raising taxes. Certainly, they wish to achieve that but the real objective is of a much more fundamental and longer term character.
The plan is to use the smokescreen of a supposed economic crisis to alter the social structure of Irish society. It is to give reality to Mary Harney’s claim that Ireland was closer to Boston than Berlin. It is envisaged that we will have an Ireland where there are huge gaps between the rewards for capital and those for labour, huge gaps between rewards for elite employees and for the ordinary worker, where there is little tax on wealth, little in the way of public services, where the majority struggle while the elite bask in wealth and luxury and where there is a permanent underclass of hereditary poor. That is a precise description of the United States. That is the plan for Ireland. Everything else is propaganda and smokescreen.
Martin O’Grady, lecturer at Institute of Technology, Tralee, has provided an extensive and detailed resource document for members of public service trade unions and supporters of good public service provision.
The document is an invaluable resource when countering misleading sound-bites and analyses as well as genuine misunderstandings in relation to public service provision, taxation and public service pay.
Martin is chair of the Co Kerry branch of National Public Service Alliance.
Click here for Full Doument
Extract From Preface
“In tandem with the economic crash precipitated by an out-of-control
banking system in Ireland and abroad, the years 2009 and 2010 witnessed an
unprecedented government-led media assault on the incomes, conditions of
service and status of public servants in Ireland. This ideologically-motivated
assault was facilitated by the club of trade union General Secretaries and the
ICTU leadership, which had been captured by government ideology, leaving
public servants, despite their overwhelming membership of trade unions,
without leadership or protection. The attack on public servants was preceded
and accompanied by a virulent propaganda campaign portraying the public
services in Ireland as excessively large and expensive, staffed by a lazy,
obstructive workforce that had excessively feathered its nest in the good times
and which was now paid much more than the country could afford and much
more than equivalent workers in the private sector.