25/11/2009

Talks To Resume After Strike

The Government and public sector unions are to reconvene talks in the wake of the large scale Public Sector strikes amid threats of a second national strike next week.

On Tuesday, some 250,000 public sector workers took part in industrial action throughout the state over indications that the Government was to cut public sector pay in the looming December Budget.

However, the state's unions have said that if no agreement is reached by next Wednesday a second nationwide stoppage will take place on 3 December.

Intensive talks are expected to ensue at Government buildings, focusing on a long-term agenda for the public service, which could see major reform in the sector, along with short-term mechanisms to cut the pay bill by €1.3bn in 2010.

Following yesterday's stoppage, Chairman of ICTU Public Services Committee Peter McLoone, acknowledged that temporary measures would have to taken to cut payroll costs next year, because reforms were unlikely to deliver enough savings before 2011.

However, the strikes have come in for some serious criticism from groups representing other workers also struggling from financial crisis.

Yesterday, the IFA President criticised political and union leaders who he said were living in cloud cuckoo land accusing them of misleading the public into believing there was a "crock of gold" in the private sector that can be tapped to meet the shortfall in the public finances.

"The facts are that most farmers and small businesses are hanging on by their fingernails and the Government must come forward with immediate action that improves our competitiveness by reducing energy, labour, waste disposal and bureaucracy costs," he said.

Also yestersday, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, lambasted the public sector unions for their decision to proceed with the national one day strike. The Association called on the Government to "hold firm", and not to concede an inch to the unions in pursuit of what they called "selfish aims" of maintaining their terms and conditions of employment.

ISME Chief Executive, Mark Fielding said: "The reality is, whether union bosses realise it or not, the economy is in crisis and, as a country, we are spending more than we are earning. With that stark reality the Government has no option but to reduce the cost of running the public sector. The alternative is bankruptcy, leading to the IMF, the EU, or both, taking over the financial affairs of the State."

(DW/GK)


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