Don’t put your shirt on it

Fair play to Arsenal for a well-deserved FA cup final win against the favourites Chelsea. Thankfully the bookies don’t always get it right. On that note, we reckon the odds in favour of a pay deal being concluded and put to ballot have lengthened as we head into the second week of talks on an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA).

There have been only two occasions in recent memory – both in 2009 – when national pay talks collapsed. The current process isn’t expected to be the third, but there are some troubling straws in the wind.

Money minister Paschal Donohoe and his government colleagues have consistently said they value the stability and certainty that comes with public service agreements. They also say they value the contribution that public servants are making to a remarkable Irish economic recovery, and claim they want another deal that will see an ‘orderly’ end to income-cutting FEMPI legislation over time.

All good.

But, half-way through the two weeks initially set aside for these talks, three worrying factors have emerged.

First, the Government negotiators are saying they have hardly any money available, especially next year. This suggests a conflict between their restrictive approach to pay recovery and their stated aim of getting all (or most) public servants out of FEMPI over the course of an extension to the LRA.

Second, the management ‘productivity’ agenda is seems designed to reduce incomes, rather than restore them. Their frankly unballotable outsourcing project, which would replace quality services and decent work with minimum wage and bottom-line worker protections, is just one of a number of examples to emerge over five days of talks.

Third, it’s just taking too long. Heading into week two, we’ve hardly got beyond DPER officials rehashing demands for stuff we didn’t concede at the height of the crisis (when pay was cut by an average of 14%, staff numbers were slashed, working time went up, paid leave went down, sick leave arrangements were halved, etc, etc).

We’re due to discuss pay and pensions today. If the bookies are factoring in last week’s DPER performance, it doesn’t bode well for the prospect of reaching a deal that IMPACT can put to ballot. What are the odds on them putting their money (albeit limited) on win-win instead?