The Government have negotiated a tentative agreement with the public sector unions. Let us have a look at what the union representatives agreed to:
1. No restoration of pay cuts
2. Longer hours for the same wages
3. 7-day work weeks resulting in no overtime
4. Redeployment of workers at Government's discretion
5. Staff reduction
6. Outsourcing of public sector jobs at Government discretion
The Government, in return for these concessions, will consider in 2011 whether they might start thinking about restoring some cuts to the lowest paid workers, but only if their overall budget is looking good. The earliest lower paid workers could hope for a restoration of wages would be in 2014.
That's it. Really, that's it. Late last year the Government decided not to negotiate a similar agreement with the unions. They walked away from the table, instituted pay cuts and tax levies, and only went back to the table when those were in place. Having achieved those unilateral, contract-defying changes, they agreed to go back to the table only so they could 'negotiate' further cuts. And they've done it. The union secretaries who were party to this farce will now return to their unions and explain how in today's economic climate it's the best deal available and urge the rank-and-file to ratify the agreement.
Let us not forget that today is the day Government is expected to announce a further bank bailout to the tune of €22 billion and only a little while after the government agreed to allow large raises to the executive board of NAMA. The message should be clear. We're not in this together.