Progress in public sector pay talks as Minister signals agreement to move on legislation

Paschal Donohoe commits to repealing outstanding Fempi legislation if multi-year deal can be reached

An undertaking by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to repeal controversial post-recession pay cut legislation, has been heralded as a breakthrough by union officials. They say it will pave the way for substantive talks on a new pay deal when the two sides meet tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Mr Donohoe promised to repeal the legislation if a multi-year pay deal could be reached. His officials gave the commitment at a Workplace Relations Commission meeting yesterday with the unions. Repealing the legislation, known as Fempi, has been a major sticking point for the unions.

After the talks concluded for the day, a spokesperson for the Minister said Mr Donohoe had said he would consider the matter. Having done so, he had committed to the repeal of the relevant sections of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest No. 2 Act “in the context of a comprehensive multiannual public service pay agreement being reached and ratified”.

“The Minister would encourage the parties to continue to proactively engage with the process with the expert assistance of the Workplace Relations Commission,” the spokesperson said.


Siptu deputy general secretary John King, who along with Kevin Callinan of Forsa, John Boyle of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation is one of the four main union negotiators, said the move was significant.

He said the Minister’s commitment would help them get into talks, but that there were still big and “difficult” issues in play. He was confident a deal could be reached in a relatively “concise period of time”.

The unions see the repeal of the legislation as important because they see it as a block on more localised, normal industrial relations. Many of the 19 unions who represent public sector workers have argued that the legislation is effectively a veto which the Department of Expenditure and Reform have on any agreement.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” said Mr King. “So even [the Minister’s] commitment is subject to us being able to conclude the multiyear agreement. But without the commitment, we wouldn’t have been able to conclude one anyway. And so from that point of view, the Minister’s unambiguous commitment does mean talks on a broader public service agreement are now able to take place. That’s a welcome development.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times