More than a decade since the economic crash, public service pay and conditions are still being framed by an “emergency mind-set,” despite Ireland’s return to robust growth, exchequer finances and employment rates, according to Fórsa’s general secretary.
Kevin Callinan said the negotiations on a successor to the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) – the three-year pay deal that also covers staff in non-commercial semi-state agencies – will be near the top of the incoming Government’s in-box after the February election.
And he called on politicians to seize the opportunity to move on from an entrenched “culture of crisis and restoration.”
Kevin said the failure to move on from the crisis continues to feed instability in public service pay and provision. And he said the teachers’ strike, scheduled for next month, was just one example of unnecessary difficulties caused by the Government’s failure to give priority to addressing weaknesses in the PSSA, which expires in December.
“Last spring I called for talks to deal with the PSSA’s shortcomings. I said economic and exchequer improvements had outstripped everyone’s expectations when the deal was signed in 2017, and that we needed to engage in discussions to address issues in particular sectors in advance of post-PSSA talks.
“As I predicted, the Government’s failure to prioritise this has further destabilised the agreement. I believe the root of the problem lies in an outdated emergency mind-set. It’s time politicians of all parties showed some flexibility and moved on from the entrenched culture of crisis and restoration in public service pay policy,” he said.
In its general election materials, Fórsa has stressed the need for inflation-plus increases to reflect the fact that economic improvements have run ahead of agreed pay provisions over the last three years. It also calls on candidates to pledge to resolve remaining “two-tier” measures – including extra working hours – that were introduced during the economic crisis.
Kevin said that a decade after the crisis hit, the legislation that gave effect to the PSSA remained couched in the language of emergency. “Whatever its shape, it will be over 15 years since the emergency if the incoming Government runs its five-year course,” he said.
“The spending power of public service wages is being eroded by the increasing cost-of-living, including in housing and child care, while private sector earnings are now rising at three times the rate of public service pay. We have been stressing to senior figures in all the main political parties that this issue must be addressed quickly and decisively once we have a new administration,” he said.