THE LATEST round of talks between the CPO and the security services associations and recent talks involving the PSA have revealed that the Government is sticking to its position of four per cent – 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 2 for 2014-2019.
While the police, prisons and fire associations have indicated their rejection of the Government's position, the PSA president last week expressed optimism for a bilateral settlement.
Different reactions reflect the disparate positions taken by each of the bargaining bodies in these negotiation.
It also reflects the Government's tactics of treating these negotiations for periods long past as if separated by an impenetrable wall and keeping the bargaining bodies divided in the hope of imposing its position on them one by one.
On Tuesday, the prisons and fire associations' spokesmen expressed concern at the CPO's statement that "if we don’t accept you might take this matter to the court; that is a real possibility," adding "we find that to be a strong-arming tactic."
Well, maybe the bargaining bodies and all public officers need to be reminded that the public service negotiating process involves:
* Discussions between the CPO (instructed by the Finance Minister) and the associations.
* Referral to the Finance Minister in case of no agreement.
* A waiting period with the dispute referred to the minister.
* Referral of the dispute to the special tribunal for arbitration with a minimum five-year award.
So the possibility of the CPO referring the unresolved negotiations to the special tribunal (made up of members of the Industrial Court) is the Government's BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).
The representative associations and unions also have their BATNA – industrial action (outlawed by the IRA which defines public officers as not being workers and having no right to strike or take industrial action).
The CPO is reminding the security bargaining bodies of his options. They should remind him of theirs.
The PM's interim
At his media conference after the last Cabinet retreat, the Prime Minister spent a good deal of time explaining what the cost of the four per cent position is.
He also referred to the windfall revenues from increased hydrocarbon prices which have risen principally due to the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Anglo-American/NATO economic warfare in response.
The PM went on to raise the possibility of treating the four per cent increase which would cost part of the windfall as an interim payment.
But the CPO's position on either side of Emancipation Day shows that the PM and his Finance Minister have not directed the CPO to put that position on the table.
Not surprising. Because the PM also put a condition for possibly putting forward the interim payment position.
His demand was for the trade union movement to return to NTAC and the position could be put there.
This is the real bullying and strong-arm tactic of the Government since NTAC is not a part of the negotiation process in the public service.
Need for joint negotiating
approach by public service
Government is the employer of all public officers and daily-paid and contract employees in the government service.
These negotiations up to 2019 dealt with two negotiating periods for which the Government refused to engage in collective bargaining until now.
These periods are the history part of the negotiations and can be paid for out of the windfall revenues that the Government says now amount to $8 billion.
That is the source of the PM's carrot-on-stick tactic of raising the possibility of an interim payment. That history needs to be settled by paying government employees their fair share out of that windfall.
That is a matter for all public service associations and unions and public sector unions to address as a joint negotiating team.
That history needs to be settled and quickly so that the current period of 2020-2022 can then be addressed and bring collective agreements in the public service current and maintain relativities in pay among all the public services – civil, teaching, police, fire, prisons, statutory bodies.
The public service associations and unions need to rebuild the joint negotiating team approach of the 1980s to ensure that a negotiated settlement is reached first on the history part of these negotiations.
The Government understands its interests and is conducting its tactics accordingly. The public service associations better understand their collective joint interests and conduct their tactics accordingly.
Failure to do this and the Government will impose its position on them one by one with or without resort to use of the special tribunal.
Clyde Weatherhead is a former president of the PSA and a negotiation practitioner