Talks on a new public service pay agreement have entered their second week

The Government has reiterated that it wants some public servants to pay more for their guaranteed pension benefits as negotiations on a new public service pay agreement talks enter a second week.

On day six of the talks, the management side has warned that as the pension-related deduction – pension levy – imposed during the economic crisis is rolled back, it will need to recoup over €600 million which it currently delivers to the exchequer.

It is understood that the State is proposing that the pension levy would effectively be converted into higher pension contributions for some groups.

Those expected to pay the highest contributions would be groups like gardaí, the defence forces, judges and some politicians who can retire on full pensions without serving the usual 40 years.

The management presentation also reiterated the limited fiscal space of €200m for next year, though pay will be competing for that money with other priorities including housing and childcare.

It is understood the management side also said its objective was to do a deal to take public servants out of FEMPI, the financial emergency legislation, as part of any new deal.

SIPTU’s health division, meanwhile, has ruled out conceding productivity or reforms in return for pay increases.

It also warns that the expectations of members will be shaped by what it calls the “elephant in the room” of the extra €4,000 given to each garda in a special deal last November.

In an update for members, the union notes that pay cuts were implemented in a time of emergency – and now that the emergency is over, pay should be restored and productivity should be negotiated separately.

The bulletin warns that tensions are expected to remain high as the talks now enter their second week.

It says that week one consisted of unions resisting the management agenda, including a pitch to make thousands of public servants work on Saturdays with no premium payments.

SIPTU also pledges that it will not give a millimetre on management demands to loosen restrictions on outsourcing.

It hopes that as the talks enter their second week, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would be more creative than rehashing demands for measures that unions had refused to concede at the height of the crisis.

Earlier, IMPACT, the largest public service union, warned that the odds in favour of concluding a new public service pay deal had lengthened.

In a members’ update on its website, IMPACT warns that while the current talks process is not expected to collapse, there are three troubling straws in the wind.

It notes that the Government values the stability and certainty that come with public service agreements, acknowledges the contribution of public servants to economic recovery, and claims to want another deal that would see an orderly end to what the union calls income-cutting financial emergency legislation over time.

However, it cites Government negotiators as stating that they have hardly any money available.

At an economic briefing earlier this week, the Department of Finance said that there would be just €200 million available for potential pay rises in 2018, with pressure from other spending priorities including housing and childcare.

The pay talks were originally scheduled to be completed by Friday, though a number of observers say that target is looking increasingly optimistic.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is leading the Government negotiating team, has said it will not be commenting until the talks are over.