Delegates at the IMPACT Local Government Division conference in Letterkenny today (Thursday) said the forthcoming pay talks must include an acceleration of public service pay recovery. And the union’s national secretary Peter Nolan warned against ‘special deals’ for some groups, and said workers would not vote for an outcome that only “gives with one hand and takes away with another.”
Mr Nolan said lower paid staff must also benefit from any pay increases, including those on incomes too low to be still covered by FEMPI measures. And he said it would be unacceptable for any group to get higher pay awards than the rest, in any extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement.
“Public servants were all dragged into FEMPI together and we expect and deserve to get out of it together. The Government and its negotiators must resist the temptation to interpret the responsible majority of public servants, who abide by agreements and negotiate in good faith, as indifferent or weak. A large number of public service groups and professions – including many that earn far less than those who can routinely grab the headlines – could make a rational case for ‘special treatment.’ So, if special favours are conceded to any group in the forthcoming talks, other claims will certainly emerge,” he said.
Mr Nolan warned that an approach that favoured certain groups of workers over others would repeat the 2016 situation, when Gardaí were awarded benefits that exceeded those agreed under the Lansdowne Road deal. “Worse, we could be back to a spiral of uncontrolled, leap-frogging pay claims, with accompanying industrial action. That is not sustainable for those who use and deliver our public services, or those who pay for them,” he said.
Mr Nolan said workers’ expectations were realistic, but a talks outcome that lacked substance would not be accepted in union ballots. “We know there are competing demands on the public purse; we’re making many of those demands ourselves. We know any agreement has to be sustainable, that’s in our interest too. But it must also have substance if it is to win the support of those who make their living by serving the public. We won’t accept an outcome that only gives with one hand and takes away with the other,” he said.
On lower paid workers, he said limited progress on pay recovery so far has taken the lowest paid – those earning up to €28,750 a year – out of the scope of FEMPI. “In the absence of a broader pay round, unwinding FEMPI will be of no benefit to those on the very lowest incomes in this and other sectors,” he said.
The conference adopted a range of motions calling for the removal of ‘FEMPI’ measures, which introduced pay cuts and the pension levy in 2009-2011. IMPACT is Ireland’s largest public service union with almost 60,000 members, including over 12,000 local authority staff.