Unions overwhelmingly endorse new public service agreement
Public service unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions today (Tuesday) endorsed a new public service agreement after 13 out of 17 unions in the sector, which collectively represent the overwhelming majority of Ireland’s public servants, backed the deal.
The package, called Building Momentum, was formally ratified at a meeting of ICTU’s Public Services Committee (PSC) this morning.
The agreement, which comes into force with immediate effect and runs until December 2022, includes modest pay increases skewed towards those on lower incomes, measures to address important remaining issues from the last financial crisis, and a mechanism for sectoral bargaining drawing on a a ‘sectoral bargaining fund,’ initially worth 1% of basic pensionable pay during the lifetime of the agreement. It retains strong protections against the privatisation and outsourcing of public services.
Building Momentum also acknowledges the recent “unprecedented display of commitment, flexibility, hard work and agility in public service provision” and commits the parties to harness this momentum to meet challenges including the continuing response to Covid-19, a return to normal delivery of health and education services, Brexit, digitisation, and establishing the public service as the driver of best practice on remote working.
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan, who chairs ICTU’s Public Services Committee, said ICTU-affiliated unions were committed to the full implementation of the agreement which would bring tangible benefits to those who use and provide public services. “The pay terms represent a realistic and acceptable approach to incomes, and they are substantially skewed towards lower earners in a very challenging context of limited resources,” he said.
SIPTU deputy general secretary John King, who is secretary to the ICTU PSC said: “From the outset of our membership consultations, it was clear that there was a real appetite to reject austerity agreements, and improve and progress pay while protecting public service delivery and public service jobs. There was also a demand to try and find a way to deal with grade-related pressure points, without undermining a collective agreement. This short, two year agreement can deliver on these objectives while providing security in times of great uncertainty for all workers across public service.”
INTO general secretary John Boyle said: ““While the pay increases of 1% per annum are modest, the addition of €500 per year to salaries below €50,000 is appropriate particularly for those in the early stages of their careers. The inclusion of a sectoral bargaining fund of 1% of payroll is vital to allow unions to address a range of long-standing claims by next February.”
INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said: “From meeting with our members across the country, it is clear that the main issues for them were restoration of hours to pre-2013 levels, safe staffing, and funds to deal with nursing management outstanding claims. The challenges to retain staff in our health services are real. All aspects of this agreement must be fully implemented over its two-year lifetime.”
The PSC officers are now in discussions with senior officials at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) about the implementation of elements of the deal, including the establishment of the processes to address additional working time introduced under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement and to establish bargaining units in relation to the deal’s sectoral bargaining provisions.