Talks on a new national public sector pay deal are likely to run beyond the budget with substantive negotiations between representatives of the Government and union sides still to get under way, Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan has said.
Mr Callinan updated the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (ICTU) public service committee on Wednesday on the talks held to date and said afterwards the process was likely to go on for a number of weeks, with officials on the Government side likely to be focused on Budget-related work between now and October 10th.
Mr Callinan, who chairs the committee, said unions would watch with interest what supports the Government provides to those struggling to cope with rising prices in the budget. He said pay increases significant enough to address the loss of buying power over the past three years were expected for public and civil servants.
“The increase to the cost of living is almost certainly permanent. So, they require a permanent response and the best way to do that is through pay increases,” he said.
He said the issue of pay was too complex to set out the union side’s expectations in percentage terms but suggested the impact of inflation was a key issue.
“I think it just would be misleading to start putting a number on it,” he said. “It depends on how the thing is structured and shaped and all the rest of it.
“But clearly, there are a couple of elements. There’s the shortfall between pay increases and the cost of living during the current agreement over these three years, from 2021 to ‘23, and the projected increase in prices over the period of any new agreement. Obviously, there are various forecasts involved there.
“I suppose the last thing would be the particular impact it has had on the lower paid.”
Talks between the two sides have been mainly focused on attempting to find agreement on the establishment of mechanisms to address claims, something flagged as an area for negotiation in the previous deal, Building Momentum.
Despite what Mr Callinan described as “some progress” no deal was reached. The talks have been suspended with the issue, described by various senior officials on the union side as “essential” to an overall deal, to be wrapped into the wider talks.
Preliminary talks about the central areas of the new deal are now the focus and when there is sufficient progress, the Government is expected to issue an invitation to formal negotiations.
With the current deal due to expire on December 31st, the union side wants substantive talks to be under way within the next month.
Mr Callinan said normalising public service industrial relations is also a key priority. “This includes appropriate access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court, and the final dismantling of remaining pieces of FEMPI legislation.
“We need to move on from a process of industrial relations shaped by the response to the 2009 financial crisis,” he said.