SIPTU HAVE HIT back at the recent protest by the ’24/7 Frontline Service Alliance’, saying that it will take more than “hot air and windy rhetoric in basketball arenas” to reach agreement.
The general president of SIPTU, Jack O’Connor, accepted that members were “justifiably concerned” about the current talks, admitting that some were “doubtful that we should be involved in the talks at all.”
There is a view that bellicose statements and refusal to participate would yield better results.
The fact is that we are facing a government with an overwhelming parliamentary majority which is itself confronted with the most serious economic crisis in our history.
Indeed, the crisis is of such a scale that it actually continues to threaten the very solvency of the State.
Calling on the “hawks on the government side” to acknowledge the reality facing public service workers, the head of SIPTU said that the union’s response to being pushed “into a war” would not be conducted over the airwaves or in sports arenas.
O’Connor said that a solution to government pay problems existed, and involved a “substantially greater contribution” from the rich in the form of taxation. Based on governments reluctance to implement a wealth tax, however, he said that all sides continued to explore the possibility of a “negotiated settlement.”
Accordingly, our team at the talks are working day and night striving to achieve an outcome that would be better for all the workers employed in the public service than a legislated pay cut or what we could reasonably expect from a protracted industrial battle.
However, failing a reasonable outcome we will actually go to war. We are prepared for it. It will involve protracted strikes and all that goes with them. While we may not win, the Government will not win either.
A deadline of the end of February had originally been set for talks over extending the current Croke Park agreement.
Today’s talks are focusing on premium payments, with government hoping to get agreement on a three-year freeze on increment payments and a commitment that staff will work at least 37 hours a week.