Monday 14 October 2019

Public servants want more money as threats to economy 'growing'

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Anne-Marie Walsh and Cormac McQuinn

Public servants will demand pay hikes given to nurses and a shorter working week - at a cost of more than €600m - in talks with the Government.

A motion to be tabled at a Fórsa civil service conference, which begins today, seeks details of the full cost of the nurses' deal that was offered to halt strikes earlier this year.

It calls for "this amount to be payable across all grades".

Other motions call on the union to "toughen up" its approach at future talks to achieve the abolition of extra working hours imposed by the Government during the crash.

Fórsa leader Kevin Callinan, who is also chief negotiator for public-sector workers, will seek the reversal of the hours during his opening address to the conference this evening.

He is expected to argue this should take place as part of a review of the current public sector pay deal.

Senior union leaders are already engaging with Department of Expenditure officials on the impact of the nurses' pay agreement that includes an "enhanced" payscale.

Sources previously told the Irish Independent a "transaction" will be sought for other State workers before talks on the next public-sector pay deal take place next spring.

But the mounting pay demands come as the chairman of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), Prof Peter Clinch, will today warn TDs the "risks to Ireland's prosperity are increasing". Mr Clinch is to appear before the Dáil Budgetary Oversight Committee.

The NCC advises the Government on how to improve competitiveness and productivity. The extra hours were imposed on State workers by the Government under a previous pay deal.

Most civil servants' working weeks increased from 34 hours and 45 minutes to 37 hours, or an extra two hours 15 minutes a week, or 27 minutes a day. They can opt out of the arrangement but would take a pay cut to reflect their reduced hours.

A spokesperson at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would not comment on the demands.

Prof Clinch will tell TDs Ireland's overall economic performance "indicates that we are continuing to maintain a strong competitiveness", the "recovery has continued apace", and economic growth is "strong".

However, he also warns of increasing risks to prosperity citing "international economic uncertainty" and return to protectionist trade and developments in US tax policy.

He will say a "small fraction" of companies provide "the major part" of Ireland's productivity performance, exports and corporation tax receipts. This disguises "the majority of under-performing firms where productivity growth is stagnant or falling".

He will say labour costs of €30.90-per-hour in Ireland are broadly in line with the Euro-area average but higher than the UK which is €25.70. Labour costs here grew 2.9pc in 2018.

Meanwhile, members of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants will seek faster pay "restoration" at a conference later this week. A motion has also been tabled seeking to lift restrictions on "political rights activity".

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News