Tuesday 20 February 2018

Public sector unions demand that pay talks start in New Year

Tom Geraghty. Picture: pseu.ie
Tom Geraghty. Picture: pseu.ie

Nicola Anderson and Anne-Marie Walsh

Public sector unions will meet government officials in a bid to agree pay talks in the New Year but have warned that unions will otherwise take industrial action.

Following a meeting in Belfast today, the leaders of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' Public Services Committee said they will continue to engage with officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform over the next two weeks.

In a statement, they said they will "maintain a collective approach to public service pay and related issues" and will hold another meeting of the committee in two weeks time.

However, the committee's secretary Tom Geraghty warned that unions will otherwise deal with the matter in their own way and said "in some instances that would almost certainly involve industrial action".

The unions' statement mirrored the words of Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe earlier today when he said a collective approach is the only way to deal with pay claims.

Mr Donohoe said the best way to deal with public sector pay issues is through talks within the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

But the Public Services Committee has taken a more moderate approach than its key member, Siptu.

General Secretary Jack O’Connor has given the government an ultimatum of tomorrow to announce new pay talks by February 1 or face the prospect of industrial action.

The public sector union leaders met to discuss their strategy after declaring that a pay proposal for gardai was a “game-changer” in their agreement with the government.

Pay rises worth roughly €2,000 each are already being given under the Lansdowne Road Agreement. A final instalment of €1,000 is due to those earning under €65,000 next September.

In contrast, the proposal for gardai set out in a Labour Court recommendation is worth up to €4,150 each, with the average payment estimated to be around €3,600.

Members of the Public Services Committee have demanded that pay talks start in the New Year to renegotiate the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

They have called for faster pay rises to restore their pay to the level it was at before pay cuts were imposed during the financial crisis.

Earlier today, the General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Liam Doran, said it was untenable for groups outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement to receive significant pay rises in January while those inside the deal would have to wait for get a smaller increase in September.

Unite’s Regional Coordinating Officer Richie Browne said he did not accept that the government cannot afford further pay ‘restoration’.

“There is money available,” he said. “It is a matter of political will and political choices”.

The Garda Representative Association began balloting its members this week on the Labour Court pay proposal. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors is due to begin its ballot next week.

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