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FAS staff sought €6,000-a-year pay hike for moving to new department

STAFF at failed state training agency FAS sought pay hikes of up to €6,000 a year when they moved to a new government department.

The wage increases were sought by their union representatives despite the fact the employees were not asked to move buildings and all that was changing was the name over the door.

The staff, who were redeployed to the Department of Social Protection, wanted improved terms even though the Croke Park deal prohibits any claims that push up government costs.

In some cases, the pay hikes would have ranged from €2,000 to €6,000 a year if the staff were allowed to move onto a higher salary scale.

The request for staff to get pay rises is among a series of revelations to emerge from behind-the-scenes negotiations over Croke Park reforms.

Staff transferring to the same department from the Health Service Executive (HSE) also argued for higher pay scales, and unions claimed some members should no longer make pension contributions.

All of these concessions were sought by union officials, despite being completely ruled out under the Croke Park deal.

"No cost-increasing claims by trade unions or employees for improvements in pay or conditions of employment will be made or processed during the currency of the agreement," it says.

An arbitration body set up to resolve the disputes has thrown out any claims that it found would drive up costs.

It told the FAS workers' union SIPTU that "any cost-increasing measure that might address this matter is not possible in current circumstances", and recommended further talks.

SIPTU argued that the FAS staff were on lower pay but would be "liable" to do the same job as a higher civil service grade worker.

It said they should get the assistant principal grade's pay scale "in a reasonable timescale" after they were "recertified" into this grade.

Their pay starts at €57,964, rising to up to €74,311. But the assistant principal pay scale rises in increments to €76,768 for those hired before 1995, and up to €80,678 for those hired after that year.

Numerous disputes arose when 1,700 staff from FAS and the HSE moved to the department over the last few months.

The claims were made where staff transferring to the department were on lower pay scales, or did not have perks enjoyed by their new civil service grades.

The arbitration body was made up of former leader of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, John Carr, and former Department of Finance assistant secretary general and secretary of the benchmarking body, Brendan Duffy.

It said it "operated on the basis that our recommendations cannot provide for any measures that would give rise to increased costs".

The Department of Social Protection refused to say how much the staff claims would have cost if they were upheld.

"The department is satisfied that a fair and balanced set of findings has been given which provide a firm, viable and clear basis for the integration of the people and services involved into the future," said a spokesman.

"It is not the policy of the department to provide details in relation to industrial relations matters."

It confirmed that most staff did not move but said "a small number have moved between buildings".

Irish Independent