Fórsa’s elected National Executive Committee (NEC) has considered proposals, which would revise the pay terms of the public service agreement called Building Momentum and extend it for a further year until the end of 2023. There are no new or additional changes to working conditions or arrangements sought in return.
Fórsa and other trade unions invoked the Building Momentum review clause on 11th March 2022 and this led to negotiations facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which broke down on 17th June 2022 as the Government side was not prepared to increase its offer beyond 5% for 2022-23.
The proposals now before you for consideration were finalised on 30th August 2022 and represent an improved offer of 6.5% with better phasing and a bigger increase for the lower paid.
There is little doubt that the increases will not match inflation in 2022, which is expected to average at least 8%. In the absence of other measures to improve the social wage in the form of better services and financial supports, the proposed pay increase would constitute a reduction in the value of wages in real terms.
The Government has indicated that it intends to introduce a further range of 'cost of living' measures and further steps are anticipated in the Budget, which is to be announced on 27th September 2022. You may prefer to wait until after the Budget to cast your vote but, if that is the case, please don't forget to vote by the closing date of 6th October or your vote won't count.
Consideration was given to the absence of any additional adjustment for 2021 when Building Momentum only provided for an increase of 1% or €500, whichever was the greater. Inflation for 2021 averaged 2.4%. The NEC was mindful that members had the benefit of the final 2% phase of the previous agreement (the Public Service Stability Agreement), which was paid from 1st October 2020 in a year when inflation was recorded as -0.3%.
The focus of the Fórsa leadership in 2021 was very much on achieving a satisfactory outcome to the HRA hours process which formed part of Building Momentum. As a result, working time was significantly reduced from 1st July 2022. The Government side has been quick to point out that, based on the report of the independent body tasked with making recommendations on the matter, the full year cost of the implementation of the reduced hours will be €358 million in 2023 and in subsequent years.
The new WRC proposals contain a signpost to further discussions in early 2023 on a possible process to address changes in the work and responsibilities of grades, groups and categories. As there has been no such opportunity in any meaningful sense since 2007 this is a significant feature. However, it will depend on the detail that is worked out and its inclusion in a future agreement.
Having listened carefully to a report of the talks process, the Fórsa NEC accepted that the terms on offer were the best that could be achieved in negotiations at this time. If rejected, the only alternative is to proceed with ballots seeking mandates for industrial action, in tandem with any like-minded unions, and to embark on such a campaign which, at the very minimum, would take several weeks.
The NEC noted that the review clause remains part of the Building Momentum agreement and that the new proposals refer to the "current projections for inflation in 2022 and 2023." So, if there are any further unanticipated changes in the "underlying assumptions" that route will be available. In any case, negotiations on a possible successor to an extended Building Momentum would be expected to get underway in early summer next year so that the outcome could be put to union members in ballots and, if agreed, inform the process ahead of the Budget announcement that October.
The proposed terms, when combined with the existing pay increases in Building Momentum, are at the higher end of negotiated pay settlements across the economy. This is particularly so for the pay adjustments for 2022-23.
While the effect of inflation on living standards is a serious concern, the Fórsa NEC felt that the retrospection associated with the 3% increase on 2nd February 2022 would be a helpful support to people if paid in November as we head into an uncertain economic and bargaining environment and face a difficult winter.
Following a long debate and discussion the NEC decided, by a vote of 28 to 2, to ask you to vote to ACCEPT the proposals.
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