What is happening with the Public Sector Pay talks in 2023?
Minster for Public Expenditure NDP Delivery & Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, recently invited the 19 trade unions to begin negotiations on the public sector pay deal. The talks are beginning today, led by the Public Services Committee of ICTU.
What the trade unions will be focusing on is that prices are still going up, despite talk of inflation slowing down. Securing pay measures in response to the cost-of-living pressures on working families is the priority objective for the trade unions.
That gap is felt most acutely by the lowest paid, so unions want to make sure that any agreement looks after the public sector employees who earn the least.
There is a short window to negotiate a new deal for the 385,000 public sector employees in Ireland, as the current public sector pay deal (Building Momentum) expires on the 31st December.
What else will the unions be looking for?
We want a fair, affordable, and sustainable pay deal for the public sector workers of Ireland who contribute so much to our country every day.
The unions wanted a multi-year public sector pay deal. However, for this to happen, it was agreed that it only made sense if the remaining elements of the emergency legislation brought in during the financial crisis are gotten rid of. These laws, often known as FEMPI, are hindering the work of unions.
This emergency legislation centralises control in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to an excessive extent, which is stopping normal industrial relations progressing even when there’s agreement between employers and unions. However, disappointingly, the minister had said that he “was not aware of any practical impact that [FEMPI] has on the conduct of normal industrial relations in the public service.”
In light of this, trade unions initially accepted the invitation to enter public sector pay talks on the basis that we will focus on trying to reach a shorter-term agreement that addresses cost-of-living pressures. This is because unions didn’t want members to miss out on a possible pay deal because of this disagreement. But they did not commit to a longer-term agreement that reduces their capacity to represent members over a prolonged period.
However, on 5 December 2023, officials from the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform indicated that, in the context of the conclusion and ratification of a multi-annual public service pay agreement, the Minister was prepared to repeal section 4(2) of FEMPI. On this basis, the parties agreed to continue talks.
What happens next?
As negotiations happen, we at Fórsa will be communicating with our members throughout the process. Make sure to read any emails, and get in touch if you have any questions.
Most importantly, if you’re not already with us, then make sure all of your colleagues join Fórsa trade union. Do not let others speak for you! Only trade union members have a vote on the public sector pay deal. Join Fórsa trade union today.