Talks on a new public service pay agreement have entered their second week
On the sixth day of the public service pay talks, the Government has been criticised for again failing to table detailed pay and pension proposals with specific figures included.
It is understood that this afternoon, the management reiterated its wish that some Government employees should pay more for their guaranteed pension benefits.
They were particularly focused on so-called “fast accrual” pensions of around 25,000 public servants including Gardaí, defence forces, firefighters, judges and some politicians who are entitled to retire on full pensions without serving the standard 40 years.
However, unions confirmed that they had robustly outlined their categoric opposition to any extra contribution.
They voiced frustration at the fact that on day six of what was supposed to be a ten day process the government had still not tabled detailed pay and pension proposals.
Observers described the process as turning into a “slow bicycle race” – with some speculation that the current Fine Gael leadership race is contributing to the delay.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has repeatedly stated that it will not be commenting on the talks until they are completed.
Concern over staffing issues across public sector
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned that the issue of special pay rises to address recruitment and retention issues for nurses and other public service grades cannot be put on the long finger.
However, the largest public service union, Impact, has said that if special pay rises are sanctioned for individual groups where such difficulties arise, there will be less money for general pay rises for everyone else.
Speaking after a session on recruitment and retention issues at the public service pay talks, Impact Director of Communications Bernard Harbor said unions had claimed that over 20 groups were experiencing recruitment and retention issues.
They included not just doctors and nurses, but also other specialists in areas like IT.
Asked whether recruitment and retention could be a deal-breaker for a new deal, he said some organisations were insisting that this would have to be addressed if they were to secure an agreement that could be put to members.
He acknowledged that in some areas it was a serious issue affecting service delivery.
However, he said the problem was that there were so many groups reporting staffing difficulties.
Mr Harbor said unions knew that money was restricted – and money given to a particular group for recruitment and retention now, it would mean less for everybody else.
However, the General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran said nurses were not prepared to wait another three years for financial measures to address the crisis in nursing.
He noted that 80% of nurses and midwives due to graduate in August had already planned to emigrate, and there was aggressive recruitment under way in the private sector here and abroad.
He said there was a crisis in nursing and midwifery and to resolve it there would have to be pay-related measures and that would have to be accepted by management if there was to be peace, nurses would not be handcuffed by any industrial peace clause in an agreement.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said they would look at the information presented today and try to revert with some way of addressing the issue.