Prospect of public pay deal ratification boosted after backing by several unions

Medical laboratory scientists whose members carry out Covid testing vote to reject proposal

Medical laboratory scientists have rejected a proposed public service pay agreement. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The proposed new public service pay agreement has been backed by higher grade civil and public servants, prison officers as well as by members of the trade unions Unite and Connect, further boosting the prospect of it being ratified formally later this month.

However the proposed deal was strongly rejected by medical laboratory scientists

The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS) said 93 per cent of members voted in the favour of the proposed new agreement. It said 56 per cent of its 3,000 members participated in the ballot.

The Unite trade union also said that its members in the public service had supported the proposed agreement with 75.2 per cent voting in favour in a ballot.


Engineering and electrical union Connect said its members in the public service voted by 88 per cent in support of the proposed deal.

Members of the Prison Officers’ Association also supported the proposed deal with 95 per cent voting in favour in a ballot.

However the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) said 96 per cent of members voted against the proposed deal in a ballot. The turnout was 71 per cent.

These scientists carry out diagnostic testing of patient samples in public hospitals, including urgent testing for Covid-19,

MLSA chairman Kevin O’Boyle said the ballot result contained a strong message from medical scientists that the proposed new public service pay agreement did not not address longstanding recruitment and retention issues in the laboratory sector and that these must be addressed urgently.

Medical laboratory scientists have a long-standing claim for pay parity with scientific personnel working in biochemistry laboratories.Medical scientists maintain that they do identical work, with the same responsibilities, but are paid about 8 per cent less.

A decision on whether the trade union movement will ratify the proposed new agreement will be taken later this month by the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions based on aggregate results of the ballots of affiliated organisations. As part of this process, the unions representing larger numbers of members are given a greater weighting .

MLSA general secretary Terry Casey said the union was scheduled to meet employers in the Workplace Relations Commission before the meeting of the publoic services committee on February 23rd.

He said that future decisions, “including how the union would respond if the pay proposal was accepted on aggregate and its position on industrial action, would be informed by the discussions at this meeting”.

Mr Casey said: "Public sector health workers from nurses, consultants to lab aides have secured significant pay increases in recent years. For Medical scientists this, combined with the advancing role of laboratory diagnostics, increased responsibility, increased workloads and the longstanding challenges in recruitment and retention mean these employment issues need to be addressed with the HSE, Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. " .

Unite regional coordinating officer Richie Browne said following the decision by members of the union to accept the proposals, "the challenge now is to maximise the benefits for public sector workers".

The proposed new public service pay agreement was supported earlier this week by members of Siptu and the primary school teachers' union, INTO – boosting the prospect that the deal will be carried at the meeting of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions later this month.

The deal has been rejected by members of the second level teachers’ union, ASTI.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association said on Friday that it was not yet in a position to ballot members as it was awaiting clarifications. The Irish Medical Organisation said it would be recommending that itsmembers reject the proposed agreement in a ballot.

The deal provides for a 1 per cent pay rise in October 2021 and a further 1 per cent rise in October 2022.

There is also another pool of money, equivalent to a further 1 per cent pay increase, being set aside to deal with issues, pay claims or outstanding awards in particular parts of the public service

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

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