Unions told resources for pay rises to be very limited in 2018

Government to seek increased productivity and work-practice changes in new pay deal

Public service management  wants to review premium payments given to those who currently work on Saturdays

Public service management wants to review premium payments given to those who currently work on Saturdays

 

The Government is seeking extra productivity and work-practice changes from the State’s civil and public servants in return for a new pay deal.

Briefing trades unions on the opening day of talks, Government negotiators signalled that public service management would be looking again to outsource some State services to private operators. The demand has been made before by the Government, but it was effectively ruled out under the existing Lansdowne Road deal after opposition from union leaders.

Management now favours Saturday working for some civil and public servants used to a Monday/Friday routine, but also wants to review premium payments given to those who currently work on Saturdays.

And in a shake-up of existing rules, the State side wants to reform clock-in rules up to and including the introduction of fingerprinting and iris biometric scans.

Reforms of rostering arrangements were also proposed to ensure staff would be available to meet demands.

Management also wants to introduce “alternative methods of employment” in the public service, including apprenticeships, internships, clinical placements, job-activation initiatives and work-experience placements.

It sees full open recruitment to all grades in the public service, and a standardised pay cycle which would see all grades paid fortnightly in arrears.

Public service management also proposed increasing the existing 45km limit for redeployment of staff to 60km.

Limited resources

At the opening of the talks Government representatives warned there would be very limited resources available next year to finance pay rises for 300,000 State employees.

Government representatives also signalled that the rise in public service staff numbers – which has been increasing at a rate of 3 per cent per year – “will need to be controlled in order to facilitate any sustainable increase in pay”.

“Of the additional €600 million in current expenditure outlined in Budget 2017, only €200million remains unallocated due to the carryover of impact of Budget 2017 measures – such as the full-year cost of social welfare rate increases – [which] uses €400 million in current expenditure.”

The Government briefing said pay would be competing for resources with other priorities such as childcare and social welfare.

“EU obligations limit the room for manoeuvre with regards new expenditure measures. After the carryover impact of Budget 2017measures is accounted for there is under €200 million available for new current expenditure measures in 2018.”

However, the level of resources available to the Government may increase further in later years. A briefing provided by the Department of Finance indicated that the Government would have fiscal space of €3.6 billion between now and 2021, with about €1 billion available each year in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Outsourcing

The public service talks will resume on Tuesday, and will deal with issues including outsourcing, standardisation of pay cycles, rostering and time and attendance changes.

Speaking prior to the start of the talks, Bernard Harbor of the Impact union said unions wanted to secure the fastest possible unwinding of the public service pension levy and austerity-imposed pay cuts.

“We also want to preserve the value of pensions that is on the Government’s agenda for these talks,” he said, although he believed an agreement could be reached.

“My gut instinct is that both sides want to see an agreement in place. The difficulty is whether we can get the terms they can take to Cabinet to get the blessing of Cabinet and we can take to our members in ballots that have a prospect of being accepted.”

The president of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), Ciaran O’Neill, said his members wanted full pay restoration. His members would not be in favour of any move towards making public servants such as gardaí – who have faster accruing pensions – pay higher contributions.

He said GRA would not support a separation from general public service pension arrangements.

Ed Byrne, president of the second level teachers’ union ASTI, said he hoped the new talks would address satisfactorily the issue of new entrants’ pay.