Public pay rises would threaten services, Minister warns

Government faces knock-on claims from groups in the public service after Garda deal

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has issued a strong warning that any additional pay rises for public servants will be at the expense of State services. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has issued a strong warning that any additional pay rises for public servants will be at the expense of State services. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

The Government has issued a strong warning that any additional pay rises for public servants will be at the expense of State services, since there will be no increase in the overall amount of money available for spending.

“There is a fixed amount of money available for public services and public pay,” Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said.

“More funds for pay restoration or acceleration will impact on funds available for other needs.”

The Government is set to face a whole series of knock-on pay claims from groups across the public service following this week’s improved deal offered to gardaí to avert a threatened strike.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Impact, the Civil and Public Services Union, Unite, the Irish Medical Organisation and the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants have all demanded that pay restoration for their members be speeded up.

Many involved in industrial relations have questioned the future of the Lansdowne Road agreement on public service pay, which is due to expire in September 2018, in the wake of the €40 million deal offered to gardaí.

Beyond parameters

Some union officials believe it went beyond the parameters of Lansdowne Road, and some Government sources have privately acknowledged they also believed this to be the case.

It is now widely accepted across Government that the Lansdowne Road deal will not survive until its intended end date of September 2018, and a successor deal for increased pay will have to be implemented before then.

An earlier deal, which some sources said could kick in from January 2018, will restrict spending in other areas.

The Department of Finance has estimated there will be €1.2 billion of “new money” available for Budget 2018, which will be announced next October, but sources said a greater portion of this will be taken up for public sector pay if a new deal kicks in earlier than intended.

Some Government figures also claimed the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) held the State “to ransom” in recent days.

The sensitivities involved in preventing a strike – or ensuring that as many members of the force as possible turned up for work – prevented the Government from making public criticisms, said one source.

However, Ministers are preparing to highlight the effect that increasing pay will have in curtailing other areas of spending.

Surprise

The Garda deal came on foot of a Labour Court recommendation, the scale of which surprised many in Government.

Mr Donohoe earlier this week told his Cabinet colleagues he had allocated €290 million for increases in public sector pay next year and any additional money would have to be taken from other areas.

Both he and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald repeated this yesterday.

The €40 million for gardaí will be taken from spending on services elsewhere across Government, with the Department of Justice expected to contribute a significant portion from its own resources.

Ministers are already anxious that the extra money to pay gardaí in 2017 will be taken from their own projects and initiatives.

The Garda deal and the future of the Lansdowne Road Agreement will be discussed by Cabinet next week.

In a statement last night the Government “affirmed its support” for the Garda deal and claimed it fell within the Lansdowne Road parameters.

“The wider implications of the recommendation in relation to the continued operation of the Lansdowne Road Agreement as it applies to all public servants across the public service requires careful consideration and assessment,” the statement said, adding the Government will meet unions to discuss their concerns.