Private sector workers receiving higher pay rises than those working for State-- union

Fórsa says no new national public service pay accord in place to succeed current deal

Private sector workers are now receiving much higher pay rises than those on offer to staff working for the State, the largest public service trade union has said.

Fórsa warned its 80,000 members of a potential "nightmare scenario" next year which could see public service pay continuing to lag behind and the existing pay accord for State workers expiring without a replacement deal being agreed.

The union said public service staff could face a “pay limbo” next year after the current pay agreement expires towards the end of 2020.

Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan said on Thursday that while the public service trade union movement and officials of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had reached broad agreement on a sectoral bargaining process to deal with specific issues in different grades, this had yet to be signed off by Ministers.


Speaking after a meeting of the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which includes representatives of most public service staff representative organisations, he urged the Government to inject more urgency into addressing problems with the current agreement.

‘Broad agreement’

“Talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which have been underway since April, have reached broad agreement on a basic architecture for sectoral bargaining. This would allow unions to deal with grade-specific issues in talks early next year, with a view to implementing outcomes as part of a successor to the PSSA (the current public service agreement).”

“But there has, so far, been no agreement on the amount of money that would be available to meet such claims. More worryingly, the sectoral process is yet to be signed off at political level.”

Mr Callinan said this needed to happen soon “because a near-certain election in the first half of next year will telescope the time available for talks on a PSSA successor”.

He said it had been expected that these negotiations would take place in the spring or early summer of 2020, but that it was now possible that an election – or post-election coalition talks – would be underway at that time instead.

Mr Callinan said that while funding had been provided for increases scheduled for next year under the current pay agreement, next October’s budget would have to make provision for 2021.

“The likely electoral timetable means it’s increasingly feasible that negotiations and union ballots may not be concluded by then.”


Mr Callinan said that when the talks with the Department of Public Expenditure commenced several months ago he had argued that the current public service agreement was no longer adequate to maintain living standards and keep up with economy-wide wage settlements.

“Since then the problem has worsened, with average private sector wage growth now running at three times the rate of public service increases.”

“Unions therefore fear a nightmare worst-case scenario where public sector pay continues to lag behind in 2020, and no deal is in place to deal with this in 2021 and beyond.”

He said the union-backed Nevin Economic Research Institute had predicted average economy-wide pay increases of 4 per cent in 2020 – a year when public service staff would under the current agreement receive a maximum of 2.5 percent in total.

“Fórsa has also insisted that a mechanism for dealing with grade-specific issues, including recruitment and retention difficulties, must be put in place.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent