Ireland -Overtime row shakes Croke Park Agreement -June 27, 2012

Just when the second-year evaluation of the Croke Park agreement (see the Collective Bargaining Newsletters of the first half of 2012) reported public sector reform is on track, an overtime conflict between the Ministry of Health and the trade unions sparked new debate over its interpretation. The 2010 agreement, reached after large IMF imposed salary and benefit cuts, secured no further pay cuts or forced lay-offs in the public sector in exchange for a massive reform that would have to save up to 3.3 billion euro annually. However, as health expenditure exceeded this year’s budget by 145 million in the first quarter, the Health Service Executive (HSE) suggested reducing costs by cutting back on overtime, allowances and premium pay. Trade unions reacted outraged, arguing that allowances and overtime form a pivotal part of pay and are therefore protected by the agreement. Tensions within the government have arisen as some ministers defend and others dismiss the HSE plan. Unions warn that the combination of a further 9500 job cuts and a recruitment ceiling may put pressure on the quality of services in the upcoming two years and that they will fight any privatisation of public services to avoid increased public expenditure.

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