Unions should consider public pay accord value in wake of nurses’ deal – Donohoe

Government not to impose financial penalties on nurses for going on strike

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha told union members in a note on its website that the details of the recommendation were complex and required some further clarification and negotiation. Above,  addressing Nurses and Midwives at Merrion Square during a city centre protest on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha told union members in a note on its website that the details of the recommendation were complex and required some further clarification and negotiation. Above, addressing Nurses and Midwives at Merrion Square during a city centre protest on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Union leaders should consider the value of the existing public service agreement when assessing whether to lodge new claims for pay rises on foot of the new deal proposed for nurses, the Minister for Public Expenditure has said.

Paschal Donohoe said the new proposals for the ending of the current wave of strikes of nurses would cost an additional €10 million to € 15 million this year and an additional € 30 million to €35 million next year when projected new productivity measures and cost savings were taken into account.

The Minister also signalled that the Government did not intend to impose financial penalties on nurses for going on strike. Legislation introduced in 2017 provides for the application of sanctions on groups which go outside the current public service agreement.

The Government imposed financial penalties such as a freeze on increments on second-level teachers who were members of the ASTI union when they were considered to have “repudiated” the previous public service agreement in 2016.

Some union leaders last night suggested that the “peace clause” set out in the current agreement was now effectively dead as the Government could not in future credibly threaten to impose penalties on any other group.

Asked on Tuesday whether he was confident he had a “bulletproof” guarantee there would be no knock-on claims from other unions on foot of the new deal with nurses, Mr Donohoe said how other unions responded to the nurses’ agreement was matter for those unions.

He said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on how they would evaluate it.

However, he said in the current agreement there were a number of issues which the trade unions had flagged as being of importance to them, such as tackling the two-tier pay system for recent entrants to the public service.

He said he had honoured all his commitments under the accord.

Mr Donohoe said the current public service agreement was “something of real value to everybody and I hope in the considerations that will take place in relation to the Labour Court recommendation that this will be more apparent”.

The implications of the new pay proposals for nurses are expected to be considered by the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions at a meeting which is expected to take place shortly.

In the meantime most of the main public service unions were holding their fire on whether they would be seeking similar increases for their members as secured by nurses after their recent strikes.

The three teacher unions said they were studying the terms of the Labour Court recommendation that led to the suspension of the strikes by nurses.

The proposals are expected to be considered by the executive of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on Wednesday. If the executive approves, the terms are likely to be put out to a ballot of members over the coming week.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha told union members in a note on its website that the details of the recommendation were complex and required some further clarification and negotiation.

“But do not be in any doubt: we have made progress across all areas of concern that we raised in this dispute.

“In particular, we have made substantial progress in securing evidence-based safe staffing levels and addressing recruitment and retention problems through pay. I believe, as does INMO senior management and your executive, that there is enough in this recommendation to suspend our strikes to allow time to consider its proposals.”

She said that among other proposals, the new nurses’ deal included:

* guaranteed multi-annual funding to maintain safe staffing levels;

* significant changes to salary scale and allowances;

* increased education, training and promotion opportunities;

* an expert group to examine, in a short period of time, remaining pay and reform issues including those affecting senior management grades.