Sunday 21 January 2018

FAI facing a raft of new pay claims as women win very public battle

Denise O’Sullivan has a laugh during Ireland squad training at the FAI National Training
Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Denise O’Sullivan has a laugh during Ireland squad training at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

John Fallon and Chai Brady

The Football Association of Ireland is braced for a raft of new pay claims after it struck a deal with the international women's team.

It is believed development officers will now seek the restoration of pay cuts imposed by the association five years ago.

The FAI yesterday struck a deal with the women's team following a week of dispute over pay and conditions, as the team threatened to boycott Monday's international against Slovakia.

The women's team secured most of the demands they had sought following a public display of dissent earlier in the week.

The deal will see them get a flat match fee of €300, a winning bonus of €150 for competitive games and a free tracksuit, among other conditions.

However, in the same week they boycotted training, representatives from Siptu have met with an aggrieved deputation from the association's coaching department.

The majority of the FAI's 167 staff are employed as development officers, responsible for fostering the game across the country.

The rate of union membership among the group has increased steadily since they lost 10pc of their salaries and other benefits in 2012.

At that time, the FAI's finances were in dire condition, having been forced to take on significant debt to meet its €74m portion of the Lansdowne Road redevelopment costs.

Read More: Revealed: The women's national team will receive tracksuits and full requested match fee in landmark deal

However, the association's top brass have, in more recent years, revealed a more healthy state of accounts.

It is against this backdrop that Siptu sought full restoration of pay to pre-2012 levels, unhappy with what it described as a paltry 3pc replenishment last June.

Attempts by Siptu to have the dispute dealt with under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proved unsuccessful and, while the FAI has proposed a separate mediation without engaging directly with the union, the matter is being escalated to a full hearing of the Labour Court.

The Players' Football Association of Ireland (PFAI) - an affiliate body of Siptu - yesterday welcomed the settlement it reached with the FAI in the early hours following a marathon nine-hour mediation session at the Clarion Hotel in Liffey Valley, Dublin.

The players' list of demands, including a flat match fee of €300 and bonuses, were eventually acceded to by the FAI.

Any player that has to take unpaid time off work will also now be remunerated as part of the deal.

In addition, the women will get their own tracksuits, which they originally had to share with younger teams. This was a major point of contention after they told a press conference on Tuesday that they've had to change in airport bathrooms.

It is understood that FAI chief John Delaney was involved in the talks by phone.

As the storm over the FAI's treatment of their senior female footballers erupted in Dublin, Mr Delaney was in Helsinki where he was voted onto Uefa's executive committee.

The team returned to training yesterday ahead of their match against Slovakia on Monday.

Julie-Ann Russell said the team were glad to put the dispute behind them and were looking forward to getting back on the pitch.

"Overall, the team are happy with the agreement that has been made. We're happy with what's come out of it and we have agreed to go back training for the game on Monday," she said.

"Everyone is dying to get on the pitch and we're looking to build up in the next few days for the game against Slovakia."

The talks were mediated by Peter McLoone, who was described as "playing a big role" in the negotiations.

PFAI solicitor Stuart Gilhooly said he was "very impressed" by Mr McLoone, but said: "It was important that people were willing to compromise and I think both sides certainly needed to be fair to each other and that was a big factor."

The FAI released a statement at the conclusion of the talks shortly after 4am yesterday.

It said: "Discussions between both sides came to a successful conclusion earlier this morning, where all 'issues to be addressed', as outlined by the players, were successfully resolved.

"Following the positive outcome to the mediation process, the players confirmed that they will return to training today, in preparation for their international fixture against Slovakia on Monday at Tallaght Stadium."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News