Public sector pay rise ‘could be as high as 6.5%’

New agreement may include salary incentives for in-demand workers

Staff who are difficult to retain in the public service are likely to be considered  in a new public sector pay agreement. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Staff who are difficult to retain in the public service are likely to be considered in a new public sector pay agreement. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

 

Higher pay rises for doctors, nurses and those staff who are difficult to retain in the public service are likely to be considered for inclusion in a new public sector pay deal.

While some senior Government figures said a public sector pay rise could be as high as 6.5 per cent over the period of a new pay agreement, others expressed scepticism that a final package would offer a pay rise of that scale.

The Government has committed to the establishment of a new public sector pay commission in the coming months to help quell industrial unrest and prepare the ground for a successor to the Lansdowne Road agreement.

The commission has also been agreed between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in their deal on a minority government.

Government and union sources believe it will pave the way for full-blown negotiations, expected to begin in a year’s time, on a successor to the Lansdowne Road deal.

A successor agreement will have to be accounted for in Budget 2018, which will be announced in October 2017. Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has said the current agreement is the “only show in town” and will be implemented in full.

Benchmarking

Its terms of reference are expected to include the benchmarking of public pay in Ireland to other jurisdictions, such as the UK and other western European countries.

The commission will be expected to produce recommendations but the Government will not be bound by these.

Another aspect likely to be examined by the commission – and factored into a subsequent pay agreement – is the awarding of higher pay rises to staff such as nurses and doctors in order to persuade in-demand workers to stay and work within Ireland rather than go abroad.

Teachers and gardaí would be unlikely to be included in any such deal.

Others who may see higher pay rises are those in IT, project management and financial control, particularly in the health service.

Evidential basis

It would, for example, examine claims that Irish doctors are not offered competitive rates in comparison to other countries.

“The last agreement was fine but it was a kind of across the board agreement that didn’t fully reflect the different pressures,” one source said.

“The obvious thing was the health service, facing particularly difficult recruitment pressures. It just couldn’t get people, which doesn’t apply to teachers, doesn’t apply to guards, doesn’t apply elsewhere in the public service.

“So it didn’t provide the flexibility that we are going to need the next time around to address particular pressures in particular areas.

“We are going to have to leave ourselves that flexibility, which is the whole purpose of having an evidential basis.”

It is also understood that senior Fine Gael figures are looking to a recent pay agreement the ESB offered its workers as an example that could be followed as a successor to Lansdowne Road.

The ESB deal saw staff offered a 5.5 per cent pay rise over a two-year period, as well as a lump sum of € 2,750.

Government sources said the issue of a lump sum is unlikely to arise in talks.

The attractiveness of the ESB deal is that it was “fundamentally” linked to increasing productivity measures.