Talks on new pay deal for more than 340,000 State workers to begin

Government and Public Service Unions to begin negotiations as existing agreement expires next month

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath briefed the Cabinet  on the preliminary talks on a new public service pay accord. Photograph: Collins

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath briefed the Cabinet on the preliminary talks on a new public service pay accord. Photograph: Collins

 

Formal talks between the Government and public service trade unions on a new pay deal for more than 340,000 State employees are expected to begin later this week.

The Cabinet on Tuesday decided to invite unons to take part in negotiations on a new accord to succeed the existing agreement which will expire at the end of December.

The Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) also backed entering into talks with the Government at a meeting on Tuesday.

The new talks are expected to centre on five separate areas which encompass the priorites of both unions and the Government.

The Department of Public Expenditure had previously indicated to unions that it envisaged a pay pause for public service staff next year as part of an overall 24-month agreement.

Unions have said they have not accepted such a proposal and suggested that a realistic and acceptable approach to pay had to be put forward.

Unions also want the talks to deal with what they describe as outstanding issues” dating back to previous agreements such as the additional unpaid hours which staff have been required to work since the Haddington Road public service accord was agreed in 2013.

Unions also want provision in any new agreement to deal with issues and greviancces affecting particular sectors or areas in the public service.

It is understand that Government representatives will be pressing for strong dispute resolution mechanisms to form part of any agreement to avoid strikes or industrial unrest.

During the course of the existing agreement there was a major dispute involving nurses. The Government is also in the weeks ahead facing potential industrial action by public health doctors, who are currently balloting for strike action.

It is expected that in the new talks the Government will seek modernisation and productivity measures.

The talks on a new public service agreement are expected to be chaired by the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath briefed the Cabinet on Tuesday morning on preliminary talks on a new public service pay accord which had been underway with trade unions over recent months.

The Public Services Committee, which represents all Ictu-affiliated unions with members working in the civil and public service, said in a statement on Tuesday that it had decided it would accept an invitation to formal negotiations received from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Last week the country’s largest public service trade union Fórsa said that a “realistic and acceptable approach to a new public service agreement does not mean ruling out pay improvements over the lifetime of a deal”.

The union also said it wanted to make it “crystal clear” that rolling back the additional unpaid hours that were introduced for public service staff in 2013 would have to be “an essential element of any new agreement”.