Dublin Bus deal puts pressure on Government’s pay policy

Gardaí and teachers are threatening strike action over public service salary agreement

 Dublin Bus workers on the picket line at Donnybrook bus depot. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Dublin Bus workers on the picket line at Donnybrook bus depot. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Government’s public service pay policy is coming under mounting pressure on foot of the deal agreed yesterday for workers in Dublin Bus to end the current wave of strikes.

The new pay agreement at 3.75 per cent per year – or 11.25 per cent over three years – is considerably ahead of the 2.6 per cent average rise forecast for this year across the private sector and is almost identical to that secured by workers in the Luas light rail system after their industrial action earlier this year.

The new pay offer is also higher than the 8.25 per cent increase over three years which was recommended by the Labour Court but rejected by staff in Dublin Bus several weeks ago.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said yesterday it anticipated that the Dublin Bus settlement – which followed six days of strikes and more than 30 hours of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission – will now set a benchmark for workers in other parts of the State-owned transport sector, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann.

Workers in these two State-owned companies already have their own pay claims in the pipeline.

Closely watched

The accord – which is the centrepiece of the Government’s public service pay policy – provided for increases of about €2,000 each for public service staff by 2018.

However, the Government is facing the prospect of strike action by both gardaí and second-level teachers in ASTI who are opposed to the Lansdowne Road deal in the weeks ahead.

The Government yesterday insisted it had to hold the line on the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe, who has argued there can be no special pay deal outside the agreement, had told the Oireachtas finance committee “control of the public service pay bill is vital to the overall sustainability of the public finances”.

Public servants

Mr Donohoe acknowledged the Government would face knock-on claims from other groups in the public service if an agreement was reached with gardaí that exceeded the terms of the Lansdowne Road accord.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald urged the gardaí to return to talks with her officials, though other Government sources pointed out that this process had been completed last Friday with the deal the gardaí have now rejected.

Mr Donohoe said the Lansdowne Road Agreement provided “a framework for negotiating on issues that matter to public servants – a good example of this is the recent agreement with the INTO and TUI on new entrant teacher pay”.

He also said that he would shortly bring a memorandum to Government on the setting up of the Public Service Pay Commission, which will examine the case for public sector pay increases once the Lansdowne Road Agreement ends.

Ministers remain adamant, however, that the agreement is “the only game in town”.