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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Rollingnews.ie Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan (L) and Irish National Teachers’ organisation, General Secretary John Boyle (R) with John King arriving at the Labour Court at Lansdowne House.
# pay talks
Public sector unions to ballot members on proposed 6.5% pay increase
The talks at the Work Place Relations ended late last night.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 30th 2022, 5:10 PM

ICTU UNIONS ARE to ballot members on a proposed 6.5% increase in public sector wages over two years that was finalised last night following “difficult” talks with the government. 

Over 19 hours of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ended late last night after an apparent 5% increase mooted yesterday was increased.  

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) says the agreed proposal will also include other cost of living measures. 

The Taoiseach welcomed the 6.5% rise that was tabled and urged union members to accept what he insisted was a “fair” agreement on public sector pay increases.

A statement from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) Executive Council this evening has said that the organisation has decided to suspend balloting for industrial action.

Sources yesterday had indicated that the initial Government offer of 5% split over two years was not sufficient to get agreement. It is understood that the State offered a further 1.5% which would be “front loaded” in October.

A meeting of the ICTU’s Public Services Committee took place at 10.00am today to consider the proposal it has now said individual unions should consult members in advance of “a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package”. 

The proposed package would see pay increases of 3% with effect from 2 February 2022, 2% from 1 March 2023 and 1.5% or €750 (whichever is the greater) from 1 October 2023.

This is in addition to 1% or €500, whichever is greater, due at the beginning of October 2022.

ICTU says the minimum payment of €750 a year from next October means the package would be worth 8% to a worker earning €25,000 a year and 7% to a person on €37,500 a year.

A further meeting of ICTU’s Public Services Committee has been pencilled in for 7 October when voting will take place on the package after each union ballots its own members. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the additional offer from the government recognised that workers in Ireland were living in “extraordinary times”.

“I think it’s a fair agreement,” he said.

“I think we’re going through and will be going through a very difficult period economically because of the war in Ukraine.

“That is a fundamental factor in all of this and particularly on the energy prices, which is feeding into inflation.

“And so therefore we need harmony, we need to work on this one, through this crisis in a collective way and, in that context, I would hope and would recommend that the deal will be accepted,” Martin said.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One today, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, said that a Cost of Living Package introduced during the budget would add to the proposed pay increase.

“We’re still four weeks out from budget and we have yet to make a final decision in relation to the quantum of the Cost of Living Package that will be introduced in parallel with the normal budget.”

In a statement shortly after the interview, the minister said:

“Given that the public sector pay bill accounts for one third of total current expenditure, the proposed agreement represents a vital piece of the jigsaw for Budget 2023. It also serves to protect public services at a time of significant global uncertainty. 

“The public service has very recently demonstrated its ability to support the people of Ireland in difficult circumstances, and the continued delivery of quality public services will be key in the current climate.”

In a statement, Kevin Callinan, President of the Congress of Trade Unions, said that the proposal was “the best that could currently be achieved through negotiations”. 

“We’ll now be explaining this package to union members, who will have the final say in ballots. Neither side has achieved all it sought, but this package is a significant improvement on the pay terms of building momentum, and it is worth more to those who need it most,” he said. 

This underlines the importance of the unions’ decision to invoke the review clause in the current agreement.

Callinan added that he believes the acceptance of the proposals may be affected by the other measures the government outlines for people in the upcoming Budget:

Over the past weeks, Minister McGrath and his government colleagues have repeatedly promised to supplement pay measures with other cost-of-living supports through the Labour-Employer Economic Forum process and the forthcoming Budget. Workers will now expect delivery on that promise. A government failure to deliver will certainly impact the ballots that will shortly get underway.

Also speaking on the News at One, Callinan said: “We’ve agreed this morning that we will meet again on 7 October that we will make a collective decision where we aggregate the various votes based on the weighting and the size of each of the individual unions.”

He added that it was crucial that the government elaborate on the Cost of Living Package before Budget Day.

“It will be very important that government clarify quickly and indeed at the Labour Employer Economic Forum next week there’s an opportunity for them to do that to an extent. Obviously the budget as the Minister said is four weeks away, our balloting period will run well past the budget. So I think there will be an opportunity for members who wish to take all of this into account.”

ICTU’s John King also said today that the Public Services Committee was recommending that planned industrial action ballots be suspended while unions consult on the WRC package.

Antoinette Cunningham, General Secretary of the The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) described the negotiations as “difficult”. 

“We feel that these proposals are the best that could have been achieved during these challenging negotiations. AGSI members will have the ultimate decision to make when a ballot is conducted in the coming weeks.

“We have seen inflation continue to rise in recent weeks, and we are fully aware of the financial pressures that our members are under and the challenging economic environment we are in. These proposals will go some way to meeting those challenges.”

Antoinette Cunningham continued, “We would like to sincerely thank the Director General and the Directors of Conciliation Services at the WRC for their assistance in reaching these proposals which were negotiated in a difficult and challenging environment,” she said.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy and Press Association

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