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Tuesday 22 January 2019

Shorter working week and possible pay rises ... here's what's on the table at this week's public service talks

  • Government and public service unions to meet to discuss end of two-tier pay system
  • Civil servants demand a shorter working week
  • Big pay rises may be on the way for newer public servants
Stock image PA
Stock image PA Newsdesk Newsdesk

Thousands of staff who recently entered the public service could be in line for a pay increase as new talks are to be held between the Government and unions.

Why are talks being held?

The Government and public service unions are to meet on Friday April 27 to discuss ending the highly controversial two-tier pay system which has seen nearly 60,000 teachers, nurses, civil servants and others recruited since January 2011 receive less pay than those in place before that date.

New entrants pay was cut by 10pc across the board for those who joined after January 2011.

The cuts were reversed to a large extent under a later pay deal but the first two points on pay scales are at a lower rate than new entrants' longer-serving colleagues.

This means it takes them two years longer to get to the top of their pay scale.

What hours are public servants required to work?

Public servants are required to work an extra two hours 15 minutes a week, or 27 minutes a day, under a previous pay deal. They can opt out of the arrangement but must take a pay cut to reflect their reduction in hours.

Tom Geraghty. Photo: Frank McGrath
Tom Geraghty. Photo: Frank McGrath

The extra hours meant most civil servants' working weeks increased from 34 hours and 45 minutes to 37 hours.

This means they work seven-and-a-half hours most days, and seven hours on Fridays.

They work from 9am to 5.45pm Monday to Thursday and from 9am to 5.15pm on Friday, with a lunch break of one hour and 15 minutes.

Now unions want to see public servants return to a six-hour and 57-minute working week.

How much would it cost the Government to reverse the pay cuts?

Reversing the cuts would cost more than €200m.

This would equal an extra €3,301 on average per public servant, on top of existing pay rises due under the current pay deal between 6pc and 10pc.

Senior Fórsa leader, Tom Geraghty, said the Government should find funds to reverse pay cuts for new entrants next year.

Under the current 'stability' pay deal, a review of issue is due to take place by the end of the year but should not push up costs before the deal runs out in 2020.

The agreement says the outcome should "not give rise to implications for the fiscal envelope of this agreement".

Mr Geraghty is on a team of union leaders who are due to meet senior Department of Public Expenditure and Reform officials to discuss the issue next Friday.

He accepted there is no money budgeted to reverse the cuts next year but still believes it is possible to get the funding together.

"While it is correct to say that no monies have been allocated to do this in 2018, I believe that Ireland’s strengthening economic and exchequer recovery means it should be possible to start funding it next year, rather than delaying until 2020 or beyond," he said.

"That would require funds to be allocated in October’s budget."

How many people are affected by the two-tier system?

About 60,000 staff recruited since 2011 – or about 19 per cent of the total public service workforce – are impacted by the two-tier pay system.

How would the two-tier system end?

Mr Geraghty said it could be ended by shortening newer entrants' pay scales, which are longer than their colleagues.

They must work for two years on rates that are 10pc lower before they join their longer-serving colleagues' pay scale.

"We returned to the issue in the talks on the current public service pay deal and, because of this, we will again be negotiating with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform officials next week, with the aim of equalising the length of pay scales.

"As well as dealing with the technical challenges of doing this fairly, in a way that works for public servants with different lengths of service – and pay scales of vastly different lengths – we will press for the scales to be shortened as quickly as possible," he said.

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