The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have called for the Croke Park Agreement to be renegotiated. This comes after UCD Students’ Union proposed a motion that would examine the agreement in order to protect student services from further budget cuts.
The Croke Park Agreement, which was passed in June 2010, is effectively a promise from the government that public sector employee’s will receive no further pay cuts for the next four years. This is to be combined with the reduction in the number of employees and an increase in productivity in order to ensure that standards of practice will not be compromised.
However, a Red C poll has revealed that 63% of Ireland’s population wants to see the Croke Park deal scrapped and its terms renegotiated. 75% of students believe that the deal should be re-evaluated so that public sector pay is adjusted in order to protect front line services, prompting Lynam to call for a renegotiation.
USI’s decision to pass UCD’s motion has received criticism. It was rejected by NUI Maynooth and the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art and Design Technology (IADT). Head of the Department of Humanities in IADT, Dr Paula Gilligan said called USI’s stance “outrageous and bizarre stance” and stated that “the very people who will be impacted most by this are the students – this should be obvious but apparently not to the leaders of USI”.
Similarly, a UCD staff member told The University Observer that she does not support his proposal and that it is unjustifiable to have cuts all across the board. “Morale is already low among the teaching staff of UCD, with no promotion rounds for the last few years, so academics have no prospects of their take home pay rising for the foreseeable future.”
Lynam defended his decision by stating that the current wage structure in UCD and elsewhere in the public sector is not sustainable, referring to The Irish Times article from November 2010 which placed UCD staff among Ireland’s highest earners. Lynam emphasised this state of affairs by highlighting the fact that UCD Library has faced €2 million cut backs and as a result, 55,000 less students visited the library last year. The UCD staff member responded by saying “Library opening hours are excellent in comparison to other universities in Ireland and the level of service from staff is also excellent.”
Student activist group Free Education for Everyone have also publicly criticised the move, stating that “by passing this motion, USI are accepting that ordinary people, rather than the wealthy, must bear the cost of the present economic crisis.”
A third year UCD student disagrees: “it is for the tax system to redistribute fairly the wealth of the country between its citizens, not the Croke Park Agreement.”
Many are concerned with the consequences of Lynam’s proposal, in that it effectively alienates trade unions. While Lynam admitted that there is a strong possibility that it will alienate trade unions, he argued that it is not always possible to please every group and he pointed out that it is his job to do what is in the best interest of the students, not the various organizations who have provided UCD and USI with support in the past.