Unions to seek significant restructuring of Government pay offer when talks resume next week

Clear gap between 8.5% over 2½ years offered by the Government and the 12.5% sought by unions

Talks on a new public sector pay agreement are likely to resume early next week, with unions seeking both a significant improvement on the offer made by Government on Wednesday and a substantial restructuring of the way the financial aspect of any deal is to be implemented.

Though there is a clear gap between the 8.5 per cent over 2½ years offered by the Government, and the 12.5 per cent sought by unions, both sides indicated their willingness on Thursday to return to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resume a process it was acknowledged had produced the basis for agreements in several important non-pay areas.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe, however, described the Government offer on pay as “very, very significant”, and said it was “really disappointing” it had been rejected. He said any agreement had to be “affordable and also appropriate for the rest of our community because these agreements are also important in influencing overall pay rates in our economy.”

He did not, however, rule out an improved offer being made by the Government when the talks resume.


Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan, who leads the union side’s negotiating team in his role as chair of the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s public services committee (PSC), warned the potential for a dispute remained, but said “we are certainly prepared to turn up to try to negotiate an outcome here, but we need the other side to do likewise”.

An important issue to be addressed is how those increases agreed over the course of any deal will be structured.

The offer made on Wednesday provided for increases totalling 3.5 per cent over the course of this year and 3 per cent in 2025, although with most of this year’s increase coming in October the actual benefit for most staff during the 12-month period has been put at around 1.5 per cent.

In contrast, the unions sought three increases of 2 per cent each this year, with a further 5 per cent in total to come in 2025 and the remainder on January 1st, 2026.

Both formulas provided for larger increases for the lowest paid workers covered by the deal. Mr Donohoe said the Government’s offer would be worth up to 12 per cent to them.

The unions’ proposed structure was rooted in their position that members had lost out under the terms of the last deal due to a jump in the cost-of-living and a belief, Mr Callinan suggested, that Ministers recognised the need to do something to address that issue.

The matter was raised by Siptu’s John King after Thursday’s meeting of the PSC when he suggested the Government’s offer “would have put little more [before deductions] than an average of just €5 per week in the wages of low-income public service workers, and €10 per week in the wages of those on middle incomes in the first year”.

At that meeting representatives of the 19 affiliated unions, whose members are among the 385,000 civil and public servants who will be impacted by the outcome of the talks process, agreed the wording of a ballot on industrial action. Mr Callinan said there was a unanimous belief both at that meeting and at one that followed with non-affiliates, specifically representatives of gardaí, dentists and psychiatric nurses, that the Government offer was not good enough.

No move to proceed to voting on industrial action is likely, however, while there is any real sense that the Workplace Relations Commission process has life in it.

Speaking on Thursday a number of officials who had attended either of the meetings but were not directly involved in the talks process confirmed their disappointment with the terms of offer and echoed complaints by Mr Callinan regarding the pace at which the process has been progressed. Most, however, suggested they believed the gap between the two sides to be negotiable.

Quite where any compromise might land was unclear as the two sides defended their initial positions on Thursday, but it remains possible that a deal will be concluded over the course of next week.

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Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times