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May 2017

Update on pay talks for members (V)

 

Pay finally made it onto the pay talks agenda for the first time yesterday following a week of productivity issues tabled by public service management. However, in place of tabling an offer, DPER officials set out what is already known from the Public Service Pay Commission report and management’s earlier presentation on ‘fiscal space’.

Any public service pay deal will turn on how much money is available, the length of any agreement and the phasing of payments. At this stage, it is looking like a three-year deal, or thereabouts, because financial constraints mean it’ll take that long to achieve the aim of bringing most public servants out of pay cuts (FEMPI) – an objective shared by all sides in the talks.

While no offer has yet been made, we know the cost of unwinding what’s left of FEMPI would be a big chunk of the fiscal space projected for the coming years. There are other demands on this money as well in terms of additional funding for public services.

Government says it wants public servants who started work before January 2013 to pay more towards their pensions. This is on foot of a Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) recommendation, which said these pension contributions should increase as the so-called pension levy comes down.

While there’s no enthusiasm about extra employee contributions we won’t be able to simply ignore the recommendation.

Recruitment and retention issues were also discussed yesterday, against a backdrop of special deals. At least 20 grades or professions where unions said there were pressing recruitment and/or retention issues. The PSPC argued the talks might establish a process for assessing the merits of such claims which is certainly worth exploring further while keeping the focus on the shared union priorities of unwinding FEMPI as quickly as possible and protecting the value of pensions.

Over the coming days, we need to know how much the Government intends to allocate from what it says is limited fiscal space. Then we need to talk about how best this money can be used, and over what time period, to achieve an outcome for members to consider.

Outcomes are far from straightforward at this stage.

 


Date: Tuesday, 30 May 17