With thousands of gardaí and teachers preparing to stage work stoppages, doctors are the latest group to warn of strike action as pressure on the Government over public service pay reaches crisis levels.
The Government insisted yesterday, however, there could be no special deals outside of the framework of the Lansdowne Road pay agreement, which had been backed by the vast majority of State employees.
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe urged Garda organisations and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) to re-engage with the Government on proposals it had put forward for dealing with their concerns. He said other union leaders had made it clear that special deals for the ASTI and the gardaí would mean an end to the pay restraint of the agreement.
“The Lansdowne Road agreement is the only agreement that the Government will be honouring and can afford to honour,” he said.
Last night, non-consultant hospital doctors became the latest public service group to warn the Government of potential industrial action.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) will next week take the Government to court over the unilateral abolition of a €3,000 living-out allowance for non-consultant doctors appointed since 2012. It said the money was not paid, despite provision for it remaining in contracts with employers.
It is understood the health service has forecast that the State’s potential liability, if it loses the case, could be up to €120 million. The IMO said attempts to resolve the row through negotiations had been rebuffed by the Government and industrial action was now being considered.
Dr Paddy Hillery, chairman of the IMO’s non-consultant hospital doctor committee, said: “It appears this Government does not want to deal fairly with doctors. Our members’ core duty is to their patients and while we have endeavoured to explore all avenues to have this resolved we will now also have to consider industrial action up to and including strike action.
“As late as last week we wrote to the Minister for Health to enter talks to resolve the matter but we have received no response.”
Officials from the Department of Justice met with Garda representatives yesterday and meetings the ASTI are scheduled today in a bid to avert the planned strikes.
Senior officials have told Ministers that if the demands of the gardaí and the teachers are acceded to, the public sector pay framework will collapse and the whole budget will unravel. “We can’t seriously deliver full restoration for gardaí now and everyone else has to wait,” said one senior figure involved in the Government’s management of the issue. “And we just don’t have €1.5 billion to give away now.”
High-ranking Government insiders say it has not just the will to resist the demands from the gardaí and the teachers but, because of support from Fianna Fáil, it has the ability to maintain a tough stance. Independent Alliance Ministers have also confirmed their willingness to hold firm.
The Teachers Union of Ireland, meanwhile, is expected to advise members they will have to cross picket lines put in place by the ASTI during their strike days if they wish to be paid.