Union representatives said they “hope” to be back at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) later this week for further talks on a new public sector pay deal after an opening three-hour session on Monday in which the two sides set out their positions.
Chairman of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Public Services Committee, Kevin Callinan, said the officials from the Government side had “gone off to consult and we expect that there may be a resumption sometime later in the week”.
The talks are intended to produce a successor to Building Momentum, the current national public sector pay agreement which initially covered 2021 and 2022 before being extended last year so as to run until the end of next month.
During a face-to-face meeting, he said the two sides had identified their respective priorities. He said the members of the union delegation, which includes Siptu’s John King, Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and John Boyle of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), had reiterated their position that a multiyear deal of the sort Paschal Donohoe has indicated he would like to see, would be impossible if the Government does not agree to repeal remaining financial crisis era legislation.
“The Minister [for Public Expenditure and Reform] has been making it clear they will want industrial peace and cost certainty. They’ll want stability and affordability,” said Mr Callinan.
“The trick here is to try to get a deal that works for workers and for Government, and we’re absolutely committed to trying to do that. But we’ve been very, very clear today that we’re no longer in an emergency situation. And that it is just simply untenable that we will continue to operate under emergency legislation as we go forward. So the ball is in their court.”
The unions had previously expressed a preference for the issue of the legislation being dealt with in advance of the substantive negotiations but Mr Donohoe said he was happy for it to be dealt with as part of the wider process.
Nevertheless, the Minister said he believed reaching an agreement would be “challenging” and the manner in which this issue is resolved seems set to impact significantly on the rest of the process.
“Obviously, we would have preferred if we’ve got a clear statement from the Government side today,” said Mr Callinan, “but we’re prepared to give it some time. Give it a few days in order to see whether they can clarify the issue. I think it’s more ‘hope’ that these talks might resume later in the week. If there’s something concrete to say to us.”
The Government side did not comment on the day’s events.