A realistic and acceptable approach to a new public service agreement does not mean ruling out pay improvements, according to Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan. Speaking at the union’s biennial national conference yesterday (19th November) Kevin said any new deal must address additional working hours introduced in 2013 as part of the Haddington Road agreement.
He said any successor to the current public service pay deal, which expires in less than six weeks’ time, would have to be realistic in the context of an extremely challenging economic and fiscal situation. But he said this didn’t mean ruling out pay improvements over the lifetime of a deal.
“All the economic projections point to a rapid economic and fiscal bounce-back once the Covid situation stabilises, and we have cause to hope that will start to happen in the coming months,” he said.
Kevin told delegates that the increase in private savings during the pandemic pointed to a crisis of confidence at the root of Ireland’s economic difficulties. “This is further evidence of the need for Government to reject an ‘austerity’ approach, which will sap confidence from our economic biosphere.
“If we give people hope, we will also give them confidence to spend and participate in the economy and in their communities. This is the lifeblood that can quickly rejuvenate businesses. It’s the route to rapid employment, economic and fiscal recovery, which must be grasped in all sectors of the economy – public, private and community,” he said.
In a report on recent exploratory talks between unions and senior Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) officials, he said the engagements had intensified significantly over the last ten days.
“It’s still not possible to say with confidence that Fórsa and other unions will be able to put a PSSA successor to ballot in the near future. But there have been focussed and dedicated sessions on the issues outstanding from the Haddington Road Agreement, the potential shape of a sectoral bargaining element in any new deal, dispute resolution and service stability issues, and modernisation and flexibility,” he said.
He added that civil and public servants had given “a magnificent display of commitment, flexibility, hard work and agility” during the Covid-19 emergency.
Kevin said the prospect of entering 2021 without a public service agreement in place was a huge challenge for the Government and those who depend on the stability, sustainability and quality of public services.
“History has taught us that the absence of a public service agreement means uncertainty at best, and chaos at worst. Fórsa doesn’t want to focus on difficulties and disputes. Instead, we want to continue to step up to the challenges in front of the public service in these extraordinary times,” he said.
On the issue of the so-called ‘Haddington Road hours,” he warned: “Some observers think we’re not serious about that. I want to make it crystal clear that it will be an essential element of any new agreement involving this union.”
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