A row has broken out at the public service pay talks after some unions belonging to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions refused to attend a meeting if the Psychiatric Nurses Association delegation was present.

The PNA, which represents 6000 nurses, has chosen not to affiliate to Congress. Sources said the usual practice was that non-Congress unions negotiated through a separate strand.

However, the PNA arrived for a session on the health sector and insisted on staying in the group negotiations.

At that point SIPTU and IMPACT refused to stay at the meeting, through it is understood that the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Irish Medical Organisation were prepared to stay.

The meeting has been adjourned without the health session taking place.

It is unclear how the row between the PNA and the Congress public service unions will be resolved.

The talks will resume on Monday when pay, pensions and recruitment and retention issues will be on the agenda.

Saturday work and premium rates raised at pay talks

The Government has told unions that it wants a review of all premium payments made to public servants for working on Saturdays.

On the fifth day of public sector pay talks, the management side also indicated that it wants a provision to enable discussion of extending Saturday working to areas where it does not currently apply.

If the review found a case for eliminating or reducing Saturday premium payments, as Saturday became a normal working day, it would mean thousands of public servants would lose the benefits of such payments.

Union sources indicated that the proposal was rejected out of hand at today’s session.

They said that it would be unacceptable to go back to members announcing cuts to their remuneration, when they had come to the talks seeking full pay restoration.

They also said that under existing practices, unions had always shown flexibility on introducing Saturday working where a valid business case had been made, and the parties had engaged in consultation.

They said there was no need for any further provision in a national agreement.

The parties are now discussing performance management, and will move on to open recruitment and flexible working patterns.