Donohoe rules out return to social partnership

Minister for Finance says Government wants new form of engagement with unions

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: No return to social partnership. Photograph: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: No return to social partnership. Photograph: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET


The Government wants to develop a new form of engagement with the trade union movement, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said.

However, he ruled out any form of return to social partnership that would involve determining pay rises across the economy.

Mr Donohoe on Wednesday met the leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu).

The Minister suggested any new forum for engagement could look at issues such as Brexit and pensions. Mr Donohoe said he had asked union leaders for their ideas on the issue.

Speaking after the meeting the Minister said he had been very clear the social partnership model involving wage setting and in which the primary role of government in budgetary policy was shared “were not areas I will be returning to”.

Separately Mr Donohoe said the Government would be engaging with public service unions on a report published last week that revealed about 60,000 State employees appointed after 2011 were earning less than their counterparts in place before then.

This report maintained it would cost the Government about €200 million to end this two-tier pay structure.

Mr Donohoe declined to give a time frame for the completion of the new talks on pay equality for recent entrants.

He also declined to indicate whether the 60,000 staff affected would receive additional payments to address the two-tier pay system before the current public service deal expires in 2020.

Last Friday Fianna Fáil maintained it would press the Government to make a substantial start on tackling the pay equality issue in the budget in October.

Fianna Fáil acquiescence is required for a budget to be passed.

The country’s largest public service union, Forsa, said on Wednesday it wanted pay scales for State employees appointed after January 2011 shortened as quickly as possible.

Asked why he was ruling out a return to social partnership, Mr Donohoe said: “Now we have strengthened institutions that lead the way in making agreements in relation to wages. I look at the work the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission have done and the unique role the Department of Public Expenditure have played in negotiating collective agreements [for the public service].”

The Minister said he believed the Government had a unique role in setting budgetary policies and determining trade-offs between competing objectives.