Ballots to commence after unions back public service pay campaign

Unions are to ramp up preparations for industrial action ballots after ICTU’s Public Services Committee (PSC) today (Wednesday) agreed to mount a coordinated union campaign on public service pay. The PSC is made up of unions representing over 90% of Ireland’s public servants.

Speaking after the PSC meeting, its chairperson Kevin Callinan said unions were united in their resolution to achieve a credible public service pay offer for 2021-2022.

Inflation has risen from 5.6% to over 9.% in the four months since we triggered the review clause of the current public service pay deal, Building Momentum. Workers across the economy, are bearing the full brunt of large and sustained increases in the cost of home heating, fuel, food, housing, childcare, and many other essentials,” he said.

Mr Callinan told the meeting that comments by public expenditure minister Michael McGrath on RTÉ radio yesterday (Tuesday) did not fully tally with what unions had been told by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which has been facilitating their engagement with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) officials.

Minister McGrath’s indication that the Government is prepared to improve the inadequate offer that led to the mid-June conclusion of talks without agreement is welcome. But it is not the position that has been relayed to us by the WRC, who have repeatedly told us that the Government side is continuing to ‘reflect’ on its position, and that no change is expected until well into August if at all.

“That’s why the PSC officers, who represent the union side in talks, recommended a coordinated union campaign backed up by industrial action ballots. That position was strongly endorsed by public service unions today. A substantial number of unions have already begun preparations for ballots, and I expect them to begin rolling out next month.

“While we fully understand that negotiations require flexibility on all sides, we have no indication that the Government side is ready to make a realistic offer. There’s little point in reengaging unless the WRC indicated that the Government side has something new to say. We are ready to re-engage once the WRC is able to indicate that there are significant new proposals to discuss,” he said.

In June, the Government offered an additional increase of just 2.5% for the 2021-2022 period of the current agreement. Unions said this was “clearly inadequate when inflation now seems likely to be over 10% in that period.”

The PSC also says the Government is breaching Building Momentum by failing to conclude a review of its pay terms. Earlier this month it said it was no longer prepared to discuss an extension of the Building Momentum agreement, to cover pay in 2023, until improved terms for 2021-2022 are agreed.