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National pay deal is ‘very important’ for economy, says Taoiseach as he urges return to talks


Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: James Manning/PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: James Manning/PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: James Manning/PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin urged both sides to return to the talks table as he said a national pay deal was hugely important for Ireland's economy, as the country faces the challenges of post-Covid-19, spiralling inflation and the fall-out from the Ukrainian war.

Mr Martin warned that Ireland was facing into "very dark era" where food and energy had effectively been weaponised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Inflation was now running at its highest level for over 40 years and Mr Martin warned Ireland could not return to the inflationary cycle of the 1970s.

He said the stability offered by such a new pay deal - and the avoidance of damaging industrial action - was critical.

The talks on a new national pay deal ended at 3am between the Government and trade unions after ICTU President Kevin Callinan said there was "a significant gap" between both sides.

Mr Martin - speaking in Kerry - acknowledged that there was "a gap" between both sides in terms of pay increases.

But he said a deal was possible and hailed the spirit of the talks was "constructive."

"I would urge both sides to get together again. I believe it is important that every single effort is made to bridge that gap that has been identified in the negotiations so far," Mr Martin said.

"I want to pay tribute to (the WRC) and all those involved in the talks - I think everybody collectively understands the challenges and the pressures on people.

"I would hope that in the coming while the talks could resume and that we could get a resolution.

"First of all the talks have taken place in a very constructive spirit - the pay issue is important.

"We understand that and that is why Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath engaged with the public service unions in respect of their needs and demands for pay rises.

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"The Government side has come some distance.

"There is a gap there and we have to take broader issues into consideration in terms of the needs - we have cost of living package (coming in Budget 2023) in terms of expenditure."

Mr Martin said that Ireland's economy had benefited over almost three decades from the stability offered by national pay deals.

"I think they (the pay talks) are important - both sides agreed to go into talks and Minister McGrath was quite proactive in terms of facilitating the commencement and conduct of the talks.

"They are important - and also the broader agenda is important. Issues like childcare which impacts the costs facing a lot of workers.

"In Government we want to have the resources to do something meaningful with childcare in the budget.

"We want resources to do something meaningful in terms of healthcare costs.

"Other costs as well such as social protection, protecting those on lower incomes from the impact of this terrible inflationary cycle brought on by the war in Ukraine.

"We are looking at a broader agenda but pay is a key part of that agenda.

"Therefore we would like to see a resolution and a conclusion being brought to these talks by agreement."

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