Extended working week for public service proposed in pay talks

Union sources indicate seven-day rostering, extended days or outsourcing not acceptable

Patricia King, general secretary of Ictu. Photograph: Alan Betson

Patricia King, general secretary of Ictu. Photograph: Alan Betson

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The Government has proposed that staff in the public service could be rostered to work over an extended week, including weekends, as part of a new overall agreement on pay for State employees.

The proposals put forward by the Department of Public Expenditure in recent days also suggest there should be “maximum flexible service delivery options” – which some groups believe could lead to greater outsourcing of services.

The Department of Public Expenditure proposals – which were set out as modernisation reforms – in the current public service pay talks, maintain that employees should be available over an entire week “to provide better services for the public” and that this could include Saturday and Sunday.

Union sources have indicated that proposals such as five-over-seven-day rostering, extended days or any outsourcing would absolutely not be accepted as part of any final deal.

Unions, as part of a new accord, are seeking what they describe as an “acceptable” pay award as well as a the reversal of the requirement for staff to work additional unpaid hours, which were first introduced under the Haddington Road agreement in 2013.

The talks on a new public service agreement are understood to be facing significant difficulties after trade unions learned that proposals drawn up by the Government side in the talks had also been shared with other staff associations that are outside the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu).

Other unions

A core group of negotiators representing the Public Service Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions had been in talks with the Department of Public Expenditure over the past week or so on the outline of a potential new agreement. It was understood the details of the Government side proposals had not been circulated to other trade unions.

However, following strong representations by non-Ictu organisations representing gardaí, military personnel, hospital consultants and psychiatric nurses and dentists in recent days, these bodies are understood to have been given copies of the Government proposals.

Union sources said on Wednesday that by circulating what they described as “early proposals”, the Department of Public Expenditure had created difficulties for the entire talks process.

A meeting of the full Public Service Committee of Ictu is expected to consider the issue on Thursday.

The Department of Public Expenditure said on Wednesday that it did not intend to comment on the specifics relating to its discussions with public service organisations on a potential new deal, “which are confidential to the parties”.

Bargaining bodies

The Government proposals involve new sectoral bargaining bodies, which would be aimed at dealing with all outstanding claims and awards involving particular groups of State employees. A set amount of money would be allocated for dealing with these issues and these sectoral processes would commence in February or March and operate in the first half of the year under the proposals.

There would also be a dispute resolution mechanism involving a new public service agreement group with an independent chairman.

It is understood that no overall quantum of money has yet been tabled for either sectoral negotiations or any across-the-board awards.

The Government is understood to want a pay pause for staff for much or all of next year as part of an agreement running between 24 and 30 months.

It is also seeking to retain many of the work flexibilities introduced as emergency measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

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