Friday 22 March 2019

Public service unions to push for pay hike in wake of €35m deal for nurses

Review justified: Incoming Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan. Photo: Mark Condren
Review justified: Incoming Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan. Photo: Mark Condren

Anne-Marie Walsh

Public service unions are set to demand a pay rise and wage reviews at new Government talks in the wake of a deal worth more than €35m for nurses.

Sources said they were likely to make a collective claim for a wage boost after nurses won a package that includes a higher salary scale to halt crippling health service strikes.

A senior source said "a transaction would have to be made" before talks on the next public service pay deal begin in the spring next year.

A number of options will be examined, but it could take the shape of bringing forward a pay rise already due.

This was the approach taken when gardaí got a €50m package two years ago after threatening strikes.

However, the pay reviews that will be demanded after nurses were granted one are not likely to affect wages until the current public sector pay deal runs out at the end of next year. The new talks will take place despite the existing 'stability' deal still being in force.

State workers are already due pay rises under that deal, including a 1.75pc increase next September.

But knock-on claims by the public service workforce of more than 300,000 have been expected since nurses got an additional package.

A senior union leader, who will take the top job at the 80,000-strong Fórsa union this summer, has fired the opening shot ahead of the discussions.

"It's time to shift our focus from the past and focus on the challenge of delivering real improvements in wages and purchasing power," general secretary designate of Fórsa Kevin Callinan told an Industrial Relations News conference yesterday.

"By way of comparison, German public service employers and unions have just agreed a three-year pay deal that comfortably outstrips inflation."

Despite the looming economic threat posed by Brexit, he said predictions for growth, inflation and pay trends justified a review of the "assumptions" underlying the pay deal.

He said public service incomes fell or were static between 2008 and last year as inflation rose by just over 6pc.

But Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe warned the Government could take matters into its own hands and make decisions on public sector pay in each budget, guided by what's affordable.

Speaking at the same conference, he said consensus was better for everyone concerned.

"If this is to be the case as we move forward, I believe all parties need to reflect on recent developments and what steps can be taken to ensure the viability of collective agreements into the future," he said.

Irish Independent

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