Saturday 24 February 2018

Donohoe signals a 'modest' pay rise at talks on new wage deal

Reached a point to be able to 'consider' rises: Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tom Burke
Reached a point to be able to 'consider' rises: Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tom Burke

Anne Marie Walsh

Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has shown his hand and revealed there will be room for "modest" pay rises at talks on a new deal for the country's 300,000 public servants.

Mr Donohoe invited unions to talks on an extension to the Lansdowne Road Agreement yesterday.

He said the aim of the talks was to agree an approach to the continued unwinding of the emergency legislation that cut their members' pay.

Although he warned that productivity measures would have to stay in place and the shadow of Brexit looms, he conceded that a wage boost is on the way.

"Thankfully, we are at a point where we can consider and negotiate on modest improvements to current public service pay and conditions, while also recognising that Government must continue to act prudently regarding the management of the national finances," he said.

He said the talks should give a fair response to public servants' expectations in the area of pay balanced with an economy subject to financial constraints and risks such as Brexit.

Mr Donohoe predicted the talks would be complex and difficult, but said collective agreements provided stability, certainty and industrial peace.

The deal is expected to include pay rises and a higher permanent pension contribution for public servants. However, they are unlikely to pay more than they already do in a pension levy imposed under emergency legislation.

Meanwhile, sources indicated the Government may shoot down doctors' and nurses' attempts to get extra pay rises at the talks.

Members of unions representing more than 51,000 health service staff want increases on top of what is given to other State workers due to problems hiring and retaining workers.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and Psychiatric Nurses Association want their members to get pay rises of up to 12pc by joining the same pay scale as other health professionals with degrees.

The Irish Medical Organisation is also demanding equal pay for new entrants with its longer-serving colleagues and new contract provisions for younger doctors.

But sources said Government officials were likely to suggest there were other ways to deal with staffing difficulties than hiking wages.

This was backed up by the first report of the Public Service Pay Commission, which will inform the Government's strategy.

The report noted that more attractive work environments and paid study days could be used to attract staff. It said staff turnover rates in the health sector "do not appear to give cause for concern", although there may be shortfalls in some areas.

Divisions are emerging between unions over the traditional 'one-size-fits-all' approach to pay rises.

In a message to members, Impact warned against special deals for particular groups. It said pay rises must have "substance" if members are to back them in ballots. The Government's spending power is limited next year, with the fiscal space estimated at €500m.

Irish Independent

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