Absence of new agreement would create ‘very difficult’ industrial relations environment
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan has told members of the union’s Consultative Council today (Thursday) that there is currently no basis for a negotiation with the Government on a new public service pay agreement.
The current agreement, the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) expires on 31st December.
Kevin addressed the meeting of the union’s branch representatives this morning, and expressed disappointment at the lack of progress made in recent months with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) despite discussions with the DPER minister, Michael McGrath TD, in July.
A scheduled meeting with DPER this week had been postponed because officials had yet to consult with the Minister to establish the basis for any negotiations.
He said a scheduled meeting with DPER this week had been postponed because officials had yet to consult with the Minister to establish the basis for any negotiations. He told union representatives: “We’re in an uncertain period, where stability and certainty are at a higher premium than usual, and that is what a comprehensive national agreement would be designed to deliver.
“However, as it stands, it is not even clear if we will be entering into negotiations. That means there is now a grave risk that we will find ourselves, perhaps unintentionally, without an agreement at the end of the year.
“The absence of a successor agreement would mean that there is nothing in place to guarantee industrial peace, nor any direct mechanism to resolve sectoral disputes. It would make for a very difficult industrial relations environment. Let’s be clear, it will be the Government’s responsibility if that happens.
“If we enter 2021 without an agreement, we’re looking at a period of uncertainty and instability, so we must begin preparations for an alternative strategy, chiefly the formulation of claims to be submitted to employers when the current agreement expires on 31st December,” he said.
Without an agreement we must begin preparations for an alternative strategy, chiefly the formulation of claims to be submitted to employers when the current agreement expires at the end of the year.
Kevin is due to brief other public service union leaders tomorrow (Friday) at a meeting of the Public Services Committee (PSC) of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
He said the basis of negotiations for a new public service agreement would need to address specific austerity measures, include an acceptable approach to pay, and provide a clear path to resolving particular long-standing issues within public service grades, groups and categories, ensuring an ultimate resolution in each case. He said these priorities had been outlined to DPER officials as the basic requirements of any negotiation.
Kevin acknowledged that the reversal of additional working hours, introduced under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement as an alternative to an additional pay cut at the time, remains a priority issue for the union.
The current Programme for Government commits to a successor agreement to the PSSA, which sets pay and working conditions for staff across the civil and public service, including voluntary hospitals and other ‘section 38’ bodies. Public service pay agreements are also applied in non-commercial State agencies.