The underlying assumptions of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) need to be reviewed to take account of lost spending power, recent and projected growth rates, and pay movements in the wider economy, according to Fórsa. The agreement governs pay and conditions for non-commercial semi-state staff and their colleagues in the wider public service.
Speaking at the annual Industrial Relations News (IRN) conference in Dublin this month, the union’s senior general secretary designate, Kevin Callinan, said public service agreements should also allow for individual grade claims to respond to enhanced responsibilities, higher qualification requirements, additional skills, and increased productivity.
“The credibility of the current agreement [the PSSA] is being stretched by two important factors, which have taken took root over the past decade and which now need to be addressed. One is the spending power of incomes after living costs are factored in. The other is the scope for the agreement to respond to profession-specific and grade-specific issues and ambitions,” he said.
Kevin also said additional working time, introduced in 2013 as part of the Haddington Road agreement, “still rankled” and needed to be addressed. He was speaking a week after Fórsa’s elected National Executive Committee considered the position of the PSSA in the wake of a Labour Court recommendation on the nurses’ dispute.
He said public service and non-commercial semi-state incomes had fallen or remained static between 2008 and 2018, a period when cumulative inflation was just over 6%. The result was a significant reduction in the value of wages. “It will simply not be credible to seek to continue on the current course without a correction to this,” he said.
Kevin said the Government and Labour Court had both recognised, in the nurses’ case, that the PSSA is capable of dealing with grade claims. The Labour Court linked this to a wider review previously recommended by the Public Service Pay Commission.
“This could herald a positive change in direction. Other grades and professions who aspire to participate in such an exercise will expect similar treatment in the same timeframe,” said Callinan.
He added that a facility to deal with grade claims would help restore confidence in the PSSA. “Such an approach could frame the negotiations on a successor to the current agreement, which will have to be sufficiently flexible to pair general increases, designed to protect living standards, with progress on specific grade or profession reviews,” he said.
Fórsa has been assured that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) will continue to engage with the union of PSSA matters, including the broader implications of the nurses’ Labour Court recommendation.
“Fórsa expects these engagements to continue to take place over the coming weeks with the objective of ensuring the continued effectiveness and stability of the public service agreement, and to ensure that it remains fit for purpose,” according to Kevin.
Read the full speech HERE.