Monday 24 July 2017

Unions scramble for side deals as pay talk endgame approaches

Unions are hopeful pay rises may improve in the final two years, although the Government is determined to include a ‘get out’ clause in the event of a severe economic shock due to Brexit. Stock photo
Unions are hopeful pay rises may improve in the final two years, although the Government is determined to include a ‘get out’ clause in the event of a severe economic shock due to Brexit. Stock photo

Anne-Marie Walsh

A scramble for side deals among unions was stalling agreement at talks on a new public sector pay deal last night.

Sources said a bid by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation to get back allowances that were axed during the financial crisis under a clause in a deal with the Government earlier this year has sparked a series of knock-on claims.

It is understood Siptu has demanded the return of a variety of allowances including a twilight payment, a chef's allowance and payments for ambulance staff.

In a tweet to members, health divisional organiser Paul Bell said there had been "extremely negative engagement" and it was "difficult to see a way to resolve any of our members' outstanding claims".

Public servants bar the highest paid may end up free of pay cuts imposed during the financial crisis under proposals tabled at the talks to extend the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Sources said Government officials have proposed that workers earning up to €65,000 would no longer feel the effects of Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest by 2021 and those earning more than that by 2023.

Talks are moving towards an endgame as pressure mounts to broker a deal before the appointment of the new Taoiseach and to allow time for unions to ballot members.

Budget

Sources revealed that a three-year deal is being discussed. Pay rises are likely to be back loaded. An increase in the region of just 0.5pc may be paid next year due to a tight budget.

The Government has said the top limit on its spending is €200m in 2018, but there are demands on this other than wage increases.

Unions are hopeful pay rises may improve in the final two years, although the Government is determined to include a 'get out' clause in the event of a severe economic shock due to Brexit.

Proposals being discussed may also mean State workers would have to pay more on a permanent basis towards their pensions.

However, they would not end up paying more than they are already doing in a €720m pension levy imposed under emergency legislation that is worth an average 5pc of pay.

Government officials want at least €550m of the levy to stay in place in the form of a permanent contribution, to be paid on top of existing contributions.

It is understood that a three-tier pension system would be rolled out. Those on the most gold-plated pension benefits would make the highest contribution. They include gardaí, prison officers, judges, politicians and the Defence Forces.

They would continue to pay the full levy, while those who joined the public service before 2013 would pay a lower amount.

Those who joined after 2013 would pay least as they are on a less generous scheme, although unions want to exclude them from the contribution hike.

Irish Independent

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