Public service union leaders will meet senior officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR) on 27th April to open discussions on remaining pay equity issues for ‘new entrants’.
The invitation to ICTU’s Public Services Committee arrived before the problem was aired at education union conferences last week. Speaking at Fórsa’s Education Division conference, deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan called for a speedy resolution to the issue – but warned that clerical officers, special needs assistants (SNAs) and other lower-paid grades must not lose out.
The union will press for pay scales to be shortened as quickly as possible for staff who joined the public service after January 2011. Under discriminatory measures announced by the then-Government in December 2010, it currently takes these new entrants two years longer than their colleagues to reach the top of their pay scales.
ICTU’s Public Services Committee, which represents almost all unions in the sector, secured agreement for new talks last month under a clause in the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which allows for an “examination” of the new entrants’ pay issue.
Speaking at Fórsa’s Education Division conference in Dublin, Kevin Callinan said SNAs were proportionately the largest group of new entrants in the public service, as more than a third of them had been hired since the start of 2011.
“There are many ways to define pay equity, and Fórsa is determined that lower-paid staff are not left behind in this debate. SNAs begin work earning less than two-thirds the pay of a classroom colleague hired on the same day. Their pay is linked to the civil and public service clerical officer, and Fórsa represents over 30,000 public servants on similar pay rates or less.
“Pay equity is a priority for all trade unions, but we believe pay policy must also encompass the issue of lower-paid groups like SNAs and civil and public service clerical officers,” he said.
In initial discussions last October, DPER confirmed that 53,000 workers had been hired since lower new entrant scales were imposed in January 2011. Management also acknowledged that unions had opposed the new scales, and had used the first opportunity available – the Haddington Road Agreement – to equalise the maximum points of the scales.
The main outstanding issue is the existence of two additional scale points for staff employed since 2011. That’s why Fórsa wants the length of these scales reduced by two points as quickly as possible.