Ireland’s largest public service trade union has warned that giving special pay rises to selected groups of public servants will inevitably mean a return to ‘leapfrogging’ pay claims and industrial unrest.
Speaking at the union’s biennial conference in Killarney, IMPACT deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan said he supported the establishment of a Public Service Pay Commission, as envisaged in the Programme for Government, but said the union “won’t accept it as a substitute for pay rounds negotiated through collective bargaining, and never as a means for some to circumvent agreements and be treated more equally than others. We are not leaving anyone behind on the journey to pay recovery.”
Mr Callinan said IMPACT’s priority was a “fair and balanced” unwinding of the ‘FEMPI’ legislation, which imposed public service pay cuts in 2009 and 2010. He said unions had accepted a third round of temporary pay cuts in 2013 because lower-than-expected economic growth had left a €1 billion hole in the public finances.
“Politicians of virtually every party now agree that we are enjoying better than expected economic growth. If this continues – and I haven’t heard any of those politicians suggest that it won’t – we will expect an acceleration of the income recovery that has finally got underway with the Lansdowne Road agreement.
“And we will expect a similar openness to income recovery in the voluntary sector and in viable commercial enterprises, regardless of whether they are in the private or the state sector. We are determined that there will be no return to the public-private divisions that weakened the union voice in all sectors at the outset of the collapse,” he said.
IMPACT also insisted that trade unions must be consulted on, and involved in the terms of reference and membership of the proposed Public Service Pay Commission. IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said the Government’s promise to honour the Lansdowne Road agreement committed it to consultation with unions on future public service pay determination.
He called for “an overall approach that covers every public service grade and profession” to “bring stability to public service pay determination at the end of a turbulent period, which has seen wages set variously through social partnership agreements, benchmarking, the imposition of pay cuts and the pension levy, and now through public service agreements framed by amended FEMPI legislation.”
He said the new system must be based on negotiated pay rounds that could be accepted or rejected by membership ballots – as was usual in comparable European countries – not the imposition of recommendations by independent pay commissions as occurs in the UK. He said a single body should be also established to conduct periodic reviews of public service grades that experience significant changes in responsibilities or specific labour market challenges, including recruitment and retention difficulties.
Mr Cody said unions here could learn from Europe, where unions had sought to address the gender pay gap through public service pay deals. “There is nothing to prevent us in Ireland addressing issues like low pay and the gender pay gap in this way,” he said.