Public service

Government clears way for formal talks on new civil service pay deal to start next week – The Irish Times

Formal negotiations on a new civil service pay deal are due to start next week after signing at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath told colleagues that preliminary talks over the past few weeks had progressed to the point that the parties now warrant a formal engagement through the Workplace Relations Committee (WRC ).

Unions have indicated a preference for a broad-based agreement taking into account elements of a “social wage”, progress on issues such as low pay and childcare and wage increases in the public sector in a context of rampant inflationary pressures.

In a statement after the meeting, Mr McGrath said: “I recognize that these negotiations will be very difficult given the impact of high levels of inflation on workers’ living standards, but also because of the uncertainty global economic outlook.

“My goal in these talks will be to strike the right balance and seek to reach a fair and affordable deal for both taxpayers in general and public service employees.”

The Cabinet also heard that the costs of hiring substitute teachers due to the impact of Covid-19 and providing school transport had pushed the Department for Education’s expenditure above its allocation in the first trimester. The department spent 2.4 billion euros in the three months to the end of March, around 26% of its annual allocation and 55 million euros up front.

Abolition of hospitalization costs

Elsewhere, the government is aiming to push through legislation waiving hospital fees for under-16s before the Dáil increases for the summer. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on Thursday presented the outline of a bill exempting children from the statutory public hospital charge of €80 per night.

The plan is that the measure, previously announced and funded in the 2022 budget, will be “urgently finalized” with the intention “to advance legislation through the Oireachtas Houses as a matter of priority in the coming weeks”, it said. said the ministry. of Health said.

The Cabinet has approved the outline of the Bill, which will now be published by the Ministry. Mr Donnelly said that, once enacted, the measure would “ease the financial burden on parents or guardians when bringing their child to hospital for inpatient care, helping to ensure that cost is not a consideration important for families when children need access to -patient treatment”.

Fees are currently capped at a maximum of 10 nights, but that can still leave families facing a bill of up to €800. The bill should be sent to the Attorney General for priority drafting.

Mr Donnelly has also received government approval for an expanded flu vaccination program for the winter, with free shots to be offered to all ‘at risk’ groups to minimize possible hospital visits.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has received Cabinet approval for bespoke legislative changes relating to the Stardust investigations. The legislation – expected to be passed before the summer recess – will allow the coroner to seek the Courts Service’s assistance in selecting a jury for inquests into the 1981 North Dublin nightclub fire, which killed 48 people.

It will ensure that employers will continue to pay the salaries of those summoned to serve on the inquest jury, an attempt to address concerns raised by victims’ families. The investigations are expected to last several months.

Urgent legislation

Ms McEntee has also called for the approval of urgent legislation that will establish the right of any member of the Garda to sue, whether they have initiated it or not. This follows a recent High Court ruling on the use of so-called ‘court presenters’, which ruled that only the Garda who brought a case could conduct proceedings in the District Court. This threatened to cause serious problems in current cases and he was warned that major disruption would ensue if corrective legislation was not put in place.

The Cabinet also approved bills aimed at streamlining the state’s response to registration and extending social welfare benefits to Ukrainian refugees. Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien also told the Cabinet that nearly 16,000 residential units had bulk purchase limiting conditions linked to their planning permission since last year when the new rules were introduced .

The minister also approved the appointment of a new member to the Nama Inquiry, which is examining the agency’s disposal of the toxic debt of its Northern Irish loans, following the death of its only member, Judge John D. Cooke. The new member is Susan Gilvarry, currently commission counsel.