Work 15 million hours free to get pay deal, public staff told
Spending Minister Paschal Donohoe has insisted that public servants must keep working 15 million extra hours for free if a new pay deal is to be struck.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said he wants to see the productivity measures agreed by State employees under previous deals retained in a new pay pact.
His comments are likely to put him on a collision course with unions at pay talks due to begin next month.
One of the unions' top priorities is to have the unpaid hours abolished.
Delegates at the Civil, Public and Services Union's annual conference earlier this month backed a motion to ballot on strike action if the Government refuses to roll back the hours by June.
They will ask other civil service unions whose members work longer working weeks to support them. Under the arrangement, they work two extra hours a week, or 27 minutes a day, bringing their working day to seven hours 24 minutes.
"The productivity measures that have been delivered as part of Haddington and as part of the Lansdowne Road Agreement cumulatively now deliver 15 million hours per year to our public services," said Mr Donohoe. "Across the duration of the next agreement I want to see those productivity gains retained."
He said alongside the pay talks that are due to begin in the middle of next month, he will shortly outline the broad agenda the Government has in relation to "the future of productivity".
Mr Donohoe admitted that the Government has more money to spend than it did when it signed the Lansdowne Road Agreement, but warned it faces huge demands in addition to public sector pay rises.
Wage increases already agreed under the Lansdowne Road deal range from 1pc to 2.5pc at a cost of €844m.
The minister said he will take the findings of a Public Service Pay Commission report that is currently being finalised to Government.
He said the Government will decide the parameters to be set in terms of public sector pay rises and he will secure a mandate in terms of what it seeks to achieve.
"I will do that after the Pay Commission report. I have seen much commentary and speculation in relation to what I might propose. At this stage it is just commentary and speculation.
"I have to deliver an agreement that's not only fair to those who work in our public services but also has to be fair to everybody who depends on and pays for our public services.
"These are going to be very, very difficult negotiations.
"While the resources we have are greater than we had a number of years ago, the demands on that and the expectations are absolutely so significant.
"We have commitments in other areas for what we want to do on tax reform, in relation to public services which we need to improve," he said.
"We have now since 2013 hired, for example, over 5,000 more teachers. We need to have the ability to do all of these things."