New public sector deal locks in austerity

Trade unions and the Government have negotiated a pay deal for all public sector workers.

Socialist Worker

New public sector deal locks in austerity
Picture: SIPTU recommends this shameful deal

Some unions will start voting in the next week. The deal is a major setback and effectively locks in austerity measures brought in during the recession. It awards minuscule pay rises but effectively gives the Government a blank cheque in other areas.
It copper fastens pay inequality; newly recruited teachers for example continue to face a career of doing the same work for less money than their senior colleagues. The issue isn’t even addressed in the deal. This is why the INTO and TUI teaching unions have initially rejected the deal.
It makes the attacks on public sector workers’ pensions permanent.
The emergency pension levy is now made permanent and incorporated into an increased pension contribution worth 10% of earnings above €32,000.  The poorer pensions given to post 2013 workers remain as a permanent feature.
It also makes permanent the unpaid hours – 2 hours extra a week in many cases –  that were forced on workers as ‘an emergency’ during the recession. Workers can opt out of these unpaid hours, but extraordinarily face being docked pay on a pro rata basis!
The government is grabbing an extra 15 million hours of work out of public sector workers for no pay!
By accepting this deal, union leaders in Impact and Siptu have effectively accepted as permanent, measures that were meant to be emergency steps due to the recession.
Con job
The union leaders have accepted the con job of a report by the Public Sector Pay Commission. This was a fig leaf of a report which compared pension entitlements in the private sector to the public sector. It was used by the Government and media to attack the “generous” pensions paid to public sector workers.
In reality all it did was confirm how private sector employers want to rip up any decent pension provision for their workers. It then uses this to justify similar attacks on the public sector. In other words it was a classic race to the bottom.
The pay increases offered are pathetic; they won’t even cover the cost of living increases and will do nothing for workers trying to cope with the rising cost of childcare, of car insurance and astronomical rent rises . For many workers the increases are almost wiped out by making the pension levy and unpaid hours permanent.
There is an urgent need for workers to campaign against and reject this deal. During the recession the Government launched a vicious attack on all public sector workers. The media joined in and workers, not the bankers or developers, were effectively blamed for the state of the economy.
Union leaders accepted and sold to their members a series  of rotten deals on the basis that they were temporary and we would win these conditions back eventually. Now they are asking workers to accept these changes for good; even while we are told  the recession is over and ‘recovery’ is underway !
Struggling
Over 20,000 jobs were cut over the austerity years leaving many of our public services struggling to cope. This is dramatically shown in the health service.
The crisis in waiting lists, in A&E departments,  and the recent closure of emergency beds for adolescents with mental health issues in Linn Dara are all caused by the attacks on workers’ pay and conditions.
The health service cannot recruit or retain staff because pay and conditions are so bad. Newly qualified nurses are leaving the country to work abroad or are “poached” by private sector hospitals.
But the deal ignores this. Like the issue of pay equality it suggests that these issues are looked at AFTER the deal expires in 2020!
This deal should be rejected and union leaders told to demand a better deal for their members and the entire public service that people reply on.
Brid Smith TD of People Before Profit has issued a leaflet to public sector workers, especially health workers which says:
“This is a terrible deal for workers. It locks in extra hours, higher pension costs and pay apartheid.
“If this deal goes through you will have these terms for the rest of your working life.
“Don’t take the first deal you are offered. Vote No. Demand your union leaders fight for a better deal”.
Brid Smith is right.

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