Public service

Civil servants union negotiators recommend ‘coordinated campaign’ including industrial action ballots – The Irish Times

Civil service union negotiators have recommended a coordinated union campaign on civil service pay, backed by strike votes, to address the impact of soaring inflation on low and middle incomes.

In a letter to members of the Irish Trades Union Congress’s Public Services Committee (PSC), the committee’s chief negotiators say the government is breaching the current civil service pay deal by failing to conclude a review of conditions compensation from Building Momentum.

They also said they were no longer prepared to discuss an extension of the Building Momentum deal, to cover salary in 2023, until improved terms for 2021-22 are agreed.

Pay negotiations with the government at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) stalled in mid-June when unions rejected an offer for a combined 5% pay rise over two years.

Ictu said at the time that the offer was “far below” projected inflation and could not be credibly put to union members to vote on.

Public Expenditure Minister Micheal McGrath later defended the government’s offer saying it was good and there needed to be a “realistic basis” for a deal.

In their letter to PSC affiliates, who collectively represent over 90% of Irish civil servants, union negotiators said the review clause in Building Momentum was invoked when inflation was 5.6%, the government answered in May, when inflation had reached 7%, but it is now at 9.1%.

Unions say their members are growing increasingly frustrated with the delay in the process, coupled with “mixed messages” from high-level government sources.

In a statement, the CPS accused the government of “continuing to drag its feet” and it seemed clear that the government has no intention of concluding the review of Building Momentum.

“Based on this, we have told the WRC that we are no longer in a position to continue discussions on an extension of Building Momentum, to cover salary in 2023, until the review of Building Momentum is conclusively concluded. If there is no extension in place before the current agreement expires at the end of December, we will have to submit payment requests for next year,” the statement said.

“We also recommend a coordinated trade union campaign, backed by industrial action votes, to achieve a credible wage offer for 2021-2022 for civil servants who, like workers across the economy, are bearing the full brunt large and sustained increases in the cost of home heating, fuel, food, housing, child care and many other essentials.

“We recommend that unions begin practical arrangements for the ballot, which begins next month, pending a meeting of the Public Services Committee to coordinate the campaign.

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure said: ‘The government has formally stated that it wishes to reach an appropriate agreement with civil service unions which strikes the right balance between providing both continued investment in our public services and an approach to public service compensation that is both fair and affordable, given the pressures of the cost of living but also the broader economic environment.

“We will continue to engage constructively with the help of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to determine how this objective can be achieved.

“We are available to enter into further discussions with civil service unions under the auspices of the WRC and contacts are continuing in this regard.”