Industrial relations between the Government and public servants became even more heated this week as a number of sectors railed at details of the Croke Park II agreement, which will see frontline workers paid different rates of pay while attending the same emergency.
Firefighters who attend the scene of accidents on Sundays will be paid a different rate to ambulance staff, if the new deal is ratified. Firefighters premium rates will remain at double time whereas ambulance staff, in common with most public servants under the new agreement, will suffer a drop in the rate to a time and three-quarters.
Prison officers have struck a similar deal to the fire fighters and will retain payments for twilight hours, Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays as well as night duty allowances.
However, most public servants will suffer the Sunday premium rate cut and will lose twilight payments.
SIPTU has maintained that the concessions given to firefighters were a benefit of staying at the discussions but, understandably, there is fury amongst many of the union’s other members who did not receive a similar deal.
With many of those who will now see significant cuts to their incomes insisting that the proposed new Croke Park extension proposals are the result of a flawed process it is hard to see how the agreement will be ratified. It is difficult to understand how staff in very similar situations should be paid differing rates of out of hours compensation.
Gardai, nurses, ambulance personnel and firefighters all have very onerous duties and must be available to serve irrespective of when a predicament presents. It is only right that such responsibilities carry compensation commensurable with the hours they work and the unsocial nature of their duties.
The Government cannot have been naïve enough to have thought that certain sectors would meekly accept huge reductions in special allowances, knowing that others providing similar services to them would retain theirs.
This has done nothing to advance accord on the new agreement. Rather it has pitted professions against one another in an unseemly dispute.
To their credit, though, an organisation representing hundreds of firefighters has this week said that members will not accept any deal on premium pay that leaves other frontline workers facing cuts.
The entire debacle is proving to be unbecoming but the bottom line is that either all staff suffer cuts to allowances or none should at all. It is perfectly understandable that those who are now being asked to endure cuts to their income should be furious that some sectors are seemingly exempt – irrespective of the reasons being put forward by the Government or representative trade unions.