Siptu to prepare for industrial action over public pay deal

Public sector union will consult members after talks with Government failed to agree a new pay deal

A second public sector union has said it is preparing for industrial action over a new pay deal after talks broke down earlier in the summer.

The Government last month offered a 5 per cent pay increase over two years for thousands of public sector workers, but this was rejected by unions who said it fell “far short” of inflation. The talks were deferred on June 17th.

In a statement on Monday, Siptu, one of Ireland’s largest trade unions with some 60,000 public service members, said it will start a consultation exercise in advance of ballots for industrial action over the agreement.

The consultation will involve union members and activists in the health service, local government, education and the State sectors in the coming weeks, the union said.


John King, Siptu deputy general secretary, said the public services committee of the congress of trade unions invoked the review clause of the pay agreement on March 11th.

“It was clear that the modest terms of the agreement, concluded in January 2021, were being completely eroded by the dramatic increase in the cost of living for workers. With inflation now running at 9.1 per cent, the Government’s failure to re-engage at the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] is no longer tenable,” he said.

Mr King said with the Dáil now in recess until early to mid-September, “it is clear that it is not prepared to engage in meaningful discussions on the cost of living crisis.

“In these circumstances, we are now left with no alternative other than to ballot our members in order to protect their standard of living.”

Under the current public sector pay agreement, Building Momentum, public sector workers received a 1 per cent pay increase last year, with a further 1 per cent due this October.

Unions triggered a review clause contained in the agreement almost four months ago due to higher-than-expected inflation in 2021 and 2022.

The Government then offered an additional increase of 2.5 per cent for the 2021-2022 period of the current agreement — which unions said was “not credible”.

Last week, Kevin Callinan general secretary of the Fórsa trade union, said unions are “working towards late August” as a date for commencing ballots on industrial action, with strikes potentially talk place at the end of September. Fórsa represents almost 80,000 public sector workers.

“Time of year is a factor, but we’re operating now on the basis there’s not going to be a deal here,” he told The Irish Times.

If that timeline was realised, it would raise the prospect of disruption to the work around the early budget for this year, which is planned for September 27th.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure, which heads up negotiations for the Government, said it is far from refusing to re-engage with the WRC, and has remained in close contact with the WRC throughout the process including last week.

“The government has made it clear at all times that it wishes to reach an acceptable agreement on new pay arrangements and remains prepared to enter meaningful discussions with the trade unions under the auspices of the WRC in order to achieve this,” the spokeswoman said.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times