Fórsa has raised the idea of a mid-term review of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which currently governs pay and working conditions for most public servants including voluntary hospital staff. The union’s Senior General Secretary Designate, Kevin Callinan, said last week that such a review could help maintain confidence in the deal, which had been ‘stretched’ by the Government’s agreement to introduce a new nursing grade.
Speaking to the Irish Times over Easter, Kevin Callinan said a mid-term review was one of a number of ideas he and other union leaders have raised in informal talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
“The PSSA was negotiated two years ago, and the country has seen economic growth and inflation on a level that was not anticipated at the time. The Government’s decision to agree to a valuable grade reform for one group of public servants has also led others to ask why their concerns can’t also be addressed within the scope of the deal.
“A mid-term review might be one way of dealing with these issues, while maintaining the credibility of the PSSA, which is due to deliver significant additional income improvements over the next 18 months,” he said.
The next pay increase under the PSSA is due in September. A further rise is set for September 2020. The agreement, which expires at the end of 2020, is worth a total of up to 7%.
The accord includes a clause that allows for a review if unforeseen developments undermine the assumptions that underpinned its negotiation. The union believes that this could include economic growth, which has outstripped the expectations that prevailed in the summer of 2017, when the deal was struck.
Callinan first warned that the underlying assumptions of the PSSA needed to be reviewed at the prestigious annual Industrial Relations News conference last month.
He told the conference that a review could take account of lost spending power, recent and projected growth rates, and pay movements. And he 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 PSSA is being stretched by two factors, which have taken 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.