Saturday 3 December 2016

Public pay deal to give workers up to €1,000 extra

Niall O’Connor and Emma Jane Hade

Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin

Trade unions are “optimistic” and “confident” that the public sector pay talks will draw to a close today ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend.

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Union sources said that the talks, which concluded shortly after 2am this morning, drew to a close as “it just ran too late”.

It is understood that the final documentation was “put together” in the early hours of this morning and that had to be sent to management for consideration.

“We made very good progress yesterday and got all the industrial relations part of,” one source said.

“At 2am they called time on it and said come back in at 10am. 

“We started on May 12, the goal here was to finish by the end of the month and with the amount of progress we have made this week, we are certainly on schedule to do that.

“We are here now in the last working day of the week.  I would be reasonably confident that we would bring this to a conclusion today.”

The phasing out of the deeply unpopular pension levy and pay increases for lower paid workers were central to a new deal between trade unions and officials from Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's department.

The Government has pledged to ringfence at least €300m in October's Budget to slash the pension levy imposed on all workers throughout the public sector.

Sources involved in the talks told the Irish Independent the proposal could see all incomes below €30,000 being exempt from the levy, which has been a source of major anger among public servants.

But the Government is also set to promise a fresh round of pay increases in 2017, aimed specifically at low and middle income earners.

It is understood the deal is a two-year extension of the Haddington Road Agreement - meaning further pay talks are on the cards in 2018.

Senior Coalition sources are determined to bring a speedy resolution to the talks, which could now be signed off by the Cabinet in less than a fortnight.

The deal will also see workers being given greater flexibility to set their own work hours and there will be significantly more opportunities to apply for promotion.

Unions have also secured agreement surrounding a series of new restrictions on the outsourcing of work.

But in return, the Government has insisted on the introduction of a 'Civil Service Renewal Plan', which will outline measures for future reform in the public sector.

Unions will also agree to solve disputes without the need for strike action and, where possible, through binding arbitration.

"There is no such thing as free money, this is not what these talks are about," said a senior Government source.

As talks continued late last night, union sources said the expected workers could see a boost in their incomes to the tune of €870-€1,000 next year.

This will come as part of a two-pronged approach: reductions to the pension levy from January and pay hikes in 2017.

The levy, which averages at 7.5pc of salaries, was the first measure introduced under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009-2013, known as FEMPI.

Both union and Government sources said they believed the deal could be agreed by the weekend, in a major boost to the Coalition.

One union official said "the majority of our demands" have been met but that "there are still issues to be teased out".

The new draft agreement involves the extension of, and the re-commitment to, the flexibilities existing in the Haddington Road Agreement.

It also involves a strengthening of mechanisms to facilitate ongoing reform and change.

"The relationship between pay and reform remains and will not be broken," said a source.

Irish Independent

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