Trade unions are expected to commence talks with the Government on on a further pay deal for public service staff by the early summer of next year.
A new €900 million public service agreement, which was negotiated late last year, was overwhelmingly ratified by unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) on Tuesday.
However unions view the new accord, which is of shorter duration than previous similar arrangements and will run until the end of 2022, as a “holding agreement”. Unions expect that talks on a successor accord are likely to commence within 15 months or so.
The deal ratified on Tuesday provides for pay increases of one per cent next October - or €500, whichever is greater - and a further one per cent in October 2022.
The agreement also sets aside a further pool of money, equivalent to a further one per cent for sectoral bargaining to deal with issues, pay claims or outstanding awards in particular parts of the public service.
In addition a new independent body will be established to examine the additional hours without additional pay introduced for groups in the public service under the previous Haddington Road agreement in 2013.
A fund of €150million is being established to cover any operational costs that will arise as a result of the recommendations on the future of these hours during the lifetime of the agreement.
Overall the new agreement will cost €906 million spread over 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Trade unions have also highlighted that the agreement contains “strong protections against the privatisation and outsourcing of public services”.
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the agreement was fair, affordable and sustainable. At a time of great uncertainty, it offered “ stability for both public servants and the public who rely on the vital services they provide”, he said.
"It is clear that the public service has delivered for the people of Ireland in the most difficult of circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic. The agreement acknowledges this contribution by providing affordable pay adjustments commencing later this year. Crucially, these pay adjustments are progressive with those on lower incomes receiving proportionally greater pay increases."
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan, who chairs the public service committee of Ictu said that affiliated unions were committed to the full implementation of the agreement which would bring tangible benefits to those who use and provide public services.
“The pay terms represent a realistic and acceptable approach to incomes, and they are substantially skewed towards lower earners in a very challenging context of limited resources,” he said.
Siptu deputy general secretary John King said: "From the outset of our membership consultations, it was clear that there was a real appetite to reject austerity agreements, and improve and progress pay while protecting public service delivery and public service jobs.
“There was also a demand to try and find a way to deal with grade-related pressure points, without undermining a collective agreement. This short, two year agreement can deliver on these objectives while providing security in times of great uncertainty for all workers across public service.”
John Boyle, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, representing primary school teachers, said that while the the pay increases of one per cent per annum were modest, "the addition of €500 per year to salaries below €50,000 is appropriate particularly for those in the early stages of their careers".
He added: “ The inclusion of a sectoral bargaining fund of one per cent of payroll is vital to allow unions to address a range of long-standing claims by next February.”
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said: "From meeting with our members across the country, it is clear that the main issues for them were restoration of hours to pre-2013 levels, safe staffing, and funds to deal with nursing management outstanding claims. The challenges to retain staff in our health services are real. All aspects of this agreement must be fully implemented over its two-year lifetime."
Mr Callinan also said the extraordinary contribution of health workers in the battle against the pandemic needed to be recognised that this had been raised by unions with the Government.
He said this needed to happen in the right way and at the right time and where it was understood and recognised by the rest of the public service and across the economy.