Unions agree to enter new pay talks
Public service trade unions have agreed to meet the Government for initial talks on its proposals for a new deal on cost savings.
The meeting with Government officials is to take place next Wednesday.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin yesterday invited the unions to talks in an effort to save, by agreement, €1 billion over the next three in the public service pay and pensions bill. The Government is hoping accord can be reached by early in the new year.
A spokesman for the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said after a meeting in Dublin this afternoon that unions would be attending the talks without preconditions "to hear what management has to say".
He added: "An important caveat is that most unions have yet to consult internally about their attitude to the talks.
"Our expectation is that management will effectively, in more detail, outline the rationale for the invitation to talks rather than necessarily giving a very detailed agenda of what they will be looking for in those talks. But next week will see the process get underway. "
This morning, Mr Howlin argued some public sector allowances should be incorporated in to core pay while others must be cut.
“There are some allowances that are clearly not [core pay] and those we need to get rid of," Mr Howlin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. "Some of that is happening in terms of new appointees, some of that is happening under the existing architecture of Croke Park where there is a facility to buy that out, and some more of them will hopefully be addressed in new talks.”
Mr Howlin said he was inviting the public sector unions to address the issue of “unallocated savings that are in the programme for expenditure”.
He added: “We either cut further frontline services or we look for further savings in the pay bill which is 35 per cent of all expenditure.”
He said he did not expect the unions to walk away from the talks. “They know the desperate state the country is in. They know what has to be done."
Unions expect one of the main changes the Government will propose is longer working hours for staff with no additional pay. Other issues such as increments, premium pay rates and possibly reforms to existing grade structures could be on the agenda for the discussions.
Senior higher-paid staff who already work flexible hours could face cuts in their overall pay levels. Earlier this year, the Health Service Executive proposed staff should work two additional hours per week for the next three years.