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Government ‘offered extra pay rises worth 5pc’ before public service talks broke down

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The Workplace Relations Commission

The Workplace Relations Commission

The Workplace Relations Commission

PUBLIC service pay talks broke down in the early hours this morning after the government offered extra wage increases worth 5pc.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions Public Services Committee said the amount tabled fell “well short of inflation”.

Talks ended after a significant gap emerged between government officials and union negotiators.

The Workplace Relations Commission has asked the parties to reflect on their positions and whether there is a basis to return to talks.

“Public service pay talks ended without agreement in the Workplace Relations Commission this morning after Government proposals fell far short of 2021 inflation and projected 2022 cost-of-living increases,” said the committee in a statement.

The committee said talks were convened after it invoked a review clause in the current public service agreement, Building Momentum, “on foot of high and sustained inflation that wasn’t predicted when the deal was agreed”.

Under the deal, the country’s 340,000 public servants are due wage hikes worth up to 3pc over two year. The final 1pc under the deal is due on October 1.

Unions negotiators said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform offered supplementary pay rises of  2.5pc to cover last year and this year.

They said annual inflation of at least 9pc is expected over the two-year period.

The union leaders said another 2.5pc was proposed for next year – “despite inflation projections of up to twice that figure in 2023”.

Government negotiators have sought to extend the two-year Building Momentum deal that is due to expire at the end of this year – to the end of 2023.

Chairperson of the ICTU Public Services Committee, Kevin Callinan, said the government proposals fell far short of projected inflation, and could not credibly have been put to members in union ballots.

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He added that they would send a signal to employers across the economy that workers should bear the brunt of large and sustained increases in the cost of home heating, fuel, food, housing, childcare, and other essentials.

“The real-term shortfall between the modest pay increases in the current public service agreement and rising living costs is huge and could yet grow,” he said.

“In 2021, the gap between annualised Building Momentum increases and annualised inflation was 2.15pc. If inflation averages 7pc this year – and it could well be higher – the 2022 gap would be 6.75pc. Who knows what 2023 will bring?

“Against this background, the Government’s proposals would leave low and middle-income public servants struggling to pay essential bills. And it would send a message to employers across the economy that workers alone must pick up the tab for out-of-control price hikes. Workers don’t cause inflation, they and their families are the victims of inflation,” he said.

Mr Callinan said if the WRC saw value in another engagement, the union side would be available.

“Earlier this week I warned that the Government’s objective of extending the Building Momentum agreement into 2023 could not be a substitute for addressing the 2021-2022 living standards deficit, and that these talks would fail if this cost-of-living shortfall was not adequately addressed,” he said.

“We worked in good faith to avoid this breakdown, but the proposals we were presented with overnight could not credibly be put to union members, who rightly decide whether we enter or extend any agreement. The Government now needs to return with a more realistic offer that can maintain stability in public service delivery and industrial relations,” he said.


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