The Government has sanctioned the payment of the final phase of the union-negotiated Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which expires at the end of 2020.
Earlier this month, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) published revised civil service pay scales, which include a 2% pay adjustment effective from 1st October. Cuts to fixed allowances will also be reversed.
The pay adjustment will be applied to staff across the civil and public service, section 38 organisations including voluntary hospitals, and non-commercial State agencies.
It means that, over its three-year lifetime, the PSSA has brought pay adjustments of more than 7% for over 70% of civil and public servants, with slightly smaller percentage adjustments for the higher-paid.
Following PSSA and earlier adjustments, around 90% of civil and public servants have now had their basic pay rates restored to 2009 levels. But most of their incomes are lower than in 2009 because of other factors, including increased pension contributions.
Meanwhile, exploratory talks on a successor to the PSSA opened at a meeting between union leaders and senior DPER officials last week. This was teed-up following a July meeting between leaders of the ICTU Public Services Committee and the new minister for public expenditure and reform, Michael McGrath.
Led by Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan, the unions outlined their headline issues for the talks at a meeting last Tuesday (8th September). The employer representatives also set out their stall.
Another meeting, due to take place before the end of the month, will likely signal whether the two sides believe there is scope to negotiate a new deal.
Fórsa pushed the process hard in 2019, and this led to substantial work on the potential shape of a post-PSSA deal. But momentum was lost in the months of Government formation that followed last February’s general election.
Furthermore, the economic and financial impact of Covid-19 – including the huge cost of wage supports and additional health spending – has fundamentally changed the context of the talks. While the Programme for Government firmly commits the new administration to seeking a deal, Brexit and the pandemic also mean the Government’s main focus has been elsewhere.
Fórsa has said the process needs to acknowledge the contribution of public servants both during the pandemic and in the hard years following the 2008 banking crisis. The union wants it to address outstanding post-crisis restoration issues, including additional working time introduced for lower and medium-paid workers in 2013.
The union also wants a mechanism for dealing with issues specific to particular grades and categories of staff, and points out that public service pay did not keep pace with cumulative inflation – or pay movements in the broader economy – in the years following the banking crisis.
The PSSA was endorsed in national ballots by members of the three unions that amalgamated to create Fórsa.
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