Public service

Government accepts invitation for further talks with civil service unions hours after announcing industrial action ballot campaign

The government accepted an invitation for further talks with civil service unions just hours after announcing a coordinated campaign of protest votes.

The unions have also received an invitation from the Workplace Relations Commission, but are asking for clarification on whether the government side is “flexible in its position in order to reach an agreement”.

The invitation came just hours after union leaders announced a coordinated campaign on public service pay that will include ballots from next month.

“The government welcomes and accepts the WRC’s invitation to resume talks on civil service pay arrangements at a date to be agreed next month,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Expenditure and Reform said. .

“As Minister Michael McGrath said from the outset, the government’s goal is to reach an agreement on fair terms for public servants and taxpayers in general. Achieving this will require good will and flexibility on both sides.

Siptu deputy general secretary John King said the Irish Trades Union Congress public services committee is “positively willing” to resume talks.

He said he was ‘seeking to clarify whether the management side accepts the invitation, on the basis that it is consistent with the Minister’s statement yesterday that they are flexible in their position in order to reach an agreement’.

it is understood that the WRC has offered the parties dates of August 10 or 12 to resume talks.

It comes as ballot plans for industrial action in the civil service intensified following a meeting of union leaders this morning.

The Public Service Committee of the Irish Trades Union Congress has agreed to launch a coordinated campaign on public service pay.

The member unions of the committee represent more than 90% of the country’s 340,000 civil servants.

Public Services Committee Chairman Kevin Callinan said the unions were united in their resolve to achieve a credible public service wage offer for last year and this year.

He said the unions were ready to re-engage after talks broke down at the Workplace Relations Committee on a review of the current pay deal last month, once the committee “is able to ‘indicate that there are important new proposals to discuss’.

“Inflation rose from 5.6% to over 9% in the four months since the review clause was triggered in the current civil service wage agreement, Building Momentum,” he said. he declares.

“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 told the meeting that Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath’s comments on RTÉ radio yesterday did not entirely match what unions had been told by the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr Callinan said the WRC was facilitating their engagement with officials from the Ministry of Public Expenditure and Reform.

“Minister McGrath’s indication that the government is ready to improve the inadequate offer that led to talks being concluded without a deal in mid-June is welcome,” he said.

“But this is not the position relayed to us by the WRC, which has repeatedly told us that the government side continues to reflect on its position and that no change is expected before August. , if at all.”

He said that was why PSC leaders were recommending a coordinated labor campaign backed by industrial action votes.

“This position was strongly supported by public service unions today,” he said. “A significant number of unions have already started preparations for the polls, and I expect them to start rolling next month.

“Although we fully understand that the negotiations require flexibility from all parties, there is no indication that the government side is ready to make a realistic offer. There is no point in re-engaging unless the WRC indicates 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.”

The PSC claimed the government was in breach of Building Momentum by failing to conclude a review of its pay terms, a claim which was denied by the minister.

The committee said it was no longer ready to discuss an extension of the Building Momentum agreement to cover salary in 2023, until improved terms for 2021-22 are agreed.

Mr Callinan said the government had proposed an additional 2.5% increase for the 2021-2022 period of the current deal.

He said the unions felt this was ‘clearly insufficient as inflation now looks likely to be in the double digits over this period’.

During the talks, the government also offered 2.5% for next year.

Together with the wage increases already agreed for this year, this would represent total wage increases of 7% for this year and next, at an additional cost of 1.2 billion euros.

The government offer that has been filed would bring the total cost of Building Momentum to 2.3 billion euros.

Earlier, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) said members would begin preparations for industrial action ballots if a new pay deal was not agreed.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha said current cost of living pressures are having a “quite dramatic” impact on nurses and midwives, as INMO members are only modestly paid.

Ms. Ní Sheaghdha said the pay rates established in Building Momentum do not reflect current cost pressures.

“We have asked all unions representing the public service to come together today to have a conversation and a coordinated approach to this campaign to improve the cost of living increases that have been negotiated as part of Building Momentum” , she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“The fact is that this is a campaign across all unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trades Unions and we are one of those unions.

“So our executive council met on Monday and approved that we should be part of this campaign because the current cost of living and inflation rates are obviously affecting nurses and midwives quite dramatically.

“We need to make sure we get an offer that can be taken to officials and we’re not in that space yet.”

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said INMO had made its position clear to the Workplace Relations Commission.

“We have told the Workplace Relations Commission and the Government that we are available and in the event that there is no response to this we will prepare our members, speak to our members and launch a campaign including preparing for the polls,” she said. said.

“We have already told the WRC where we are, the WRC knows that when the unions seriously engage in negotiations, we do not do so with a fixed position.

“We know and we understand the conciliation and if there is an improved offer, well, we cannot understand why we have not been recalled since these talks were adjourned by the WRC.

“If there’s an improved offer there, let’s move on. If we are invited to start talks, we are available.

“My understanding and the last official correspondence was that the government needed more time so that the WRC itself would not be able to bring the parties together, and I speak not on their behalf, but as a practitioner, I know their function.”

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the health sector is in “crisis” and current pay rates do not make nursing or midwifery an “attractive” profession.

“We are already in crisis because we have a shortage of nurses and midwives in this country as well as other health personnel, but in reality living in our urban areas, the cost of rent, the cost of driving to work and also the very real cost of child care is not taken into account by the compensation services that have been created,” she said.

“All of these costs are felt by nurses and midwives equally, but nurses and midwives are also modestly paid.”