Last updated: Monday 12th June 2017 (15:30)
Pay proposals: IMPACT recommendation expected tomorrow (Tuesday)
IMPACT’S Central Executive Committee (CEC) is expected to make a recommendation on the proposed new pay agreement tomorrow following a meeting of the union’s Consultative Council, which comprises elected representatives of all IMPACT’s branches and divisions.
The CEC, which is made up of representatives elected by IMPACT branches, considered the proposals in detail last Friday. It will meet again in special session immediately after tomorrow’s Consultative Council meeting.
If accepted, the agreement would ensure that pay lost through ‘FEMPI’ legislation would be restored to more than 90% of public servants. The rest would see full pay restoration within a further two years.
It will also bring pay increases to staff currently earning less than €28,500, who have already exited FEMPI provisions.
If the agreement is accepted, almost a quarter of public servants will also have exited FEMPI pension levy provisions by 2020.
As a result, all public servants would receive positive pay and pension levy adjustments, with 73% seeing gains of more than 7% over the lifetime of the agreement. The full pay and pension levy adjustments are:
- 1st January 2018: 1% pay increase
- 1st October 2018: 1% pay increase
- 1st January 2019: Pension levy threshold up from €28,750 to €32,000 (worth €325 per year)
- 1st January 2019: 1% pay increase for those earning less than €30,000
- 1st September 2019: 1.75% pay increase
- 1st January 2020: Pension levy threshold increased to €34,500 (worth €250 per year)
- 1st January 2020: 0.5% pay increase for those earning less than €32,000
- 1st October 2020: 2% pay adjustment.
During the period of the proposed agreement, there would be no change in value of public service pensions which, for most, would continue to be based on final salary and be linked to pay rises of staff in the grade from which a public servant retires. The proposed agreement links this protection to enhanced pension contributions for most, in the form of the retention of a proportion of the so-called pension levy.
The proposed agreement also contains a number of other provisions including:
- The retention of outsourcing protections
- A facility to revert to pre-Haddington Road working hours (with a commensurate pay adjustment)
- An end to pension levy payments on non-pensionable earnings, including overtime
- A process to address longer pay scales for new (post 2010) entrants
- A process to assess recruitment and retention problems in certain grades and professions
- Commitments on work-life balance arrangements, and
- A commitment not to increase CORU, or other professional registration fees, during the lifetime of the agreement.
Last updated: Thursday 8th June 2017 (12:00)
Your questions answered
A dedicated questions and answers page is now available, covering members questions on the proposed Public Service Stability Agreement. A full copy of the proposed agreement is also available to download.
Last updated: Thursday 8th June 2017 (02:10)
This is a summary of the main points of the outcome of negotiations on a proposed extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement. A more detailed summary (and a full text of the proposals) will be available on the IMPACT website as soon as possible. The final decision on whether the proposals are agreed will be determined by ballots of members of the unions concerned.
- Duration of proposal: 1st January 2018 to 31st December 2020
- By 2020, more than 90% of public servants will be out of FEMPI pay provisions, and almost a quarter will have exited FEMPI pension levy payments
- 73% of public servants gain more than 7% by 2020.
Pay and pension levy
- 1st January 2018: 1% pay adjustment
- 1st October 2018: 1% pay adjustment
- 1st January 2019: Pension levy threshold up from €28,750 to €32,000 (worth €325pa)
- 1st January 2019: 1% pay adjustment for those earning less than €30,000
- 1st September 2019: 1.75% pay adjustment
- 1st January 2020: Pension levy threshold increased to €34,500 (worth €250pa)
- 1st October 2020: 2% pay adjustment.
Value of combined pay and pension levy adjustments
- Combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth 7.4% to those earning €30,000 a year or less, over lifetime of deal
- Combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth 7% to those earning between €50,000 and €55,000 a year, over lifetime of deal
- Combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth between 6.6% and 6.9% for those between €55,000 and €80,000 a year, over lifetime of deal.
- No change in value of pensions. No move to CPI link for increases over lifetime of the agreement. Pay-pension link to continue. No career average calculation for future service.
- Highest additional pension contribution for those on ‘fast accrual’ pensions – lowest for post-2013 entrants in new ‘single’ pension arrangement.
- No weakening of outsourcing protections
- No change in working hours, but facility to revert to pre-Haddington Road hours with commensurate pay adjustment
- No extension of Saturday working: Facility to review rostering arrangements for groups, but no change without agreement
- An end to pension levy on non-pensionable earnings, including overtime
- Process to address longer pay scales for new (post 2010) entrants
- Process to assess recruitment and retention problems
- No increase in CORU fees over lifetime of deal
- Commitments on work-life balance arrangements.
See also: Benefits Table (PDF)
Crunch time for the number crunchers?
Last updated: Wednesday 7th June 2017 (09:00)
We’re a bit later than usual this morning as things ran quite late last night, before Workplace Relations Commission officials rather unexpectedly stood everybody down around 11pm to allow DPER officials time to “crunch some numbers.”
This late in the process, that crunching can only be about pay and pension costs, with unions yet to be given a formal pitch on the amount of cash available to fund what has now been clarified as a three-year deal.
The chief negotiators have clearly had some conversations on the core matter of incomes. But, while turkey-talking about money always tends to come at the end of negotiation like this, there has to be some nervousness that DPER is still doing its sums at this late stage.
In the meantime, a fair bit of progress was made on non-pay issues during 12 hours of engagement yesterday. That said, a number of headaches remain including outsourcing, which has been ‘red lined’ by IMPACT and other unions.
The parties reconvene at 2.30pm this afternoon. After that, we’ll get a better idea about whether or not there’s enough in the pot to fashion a deal that can seriously be put to ballot. If so, we’ll move to clear up the non-pay agenda, and focus on putting a final package together.
Senior WRC officials have floated the prospect of talks going into the weekend. But, notwithstanding yesterday’s unexpected adjournment, we still expect today to be crunch time. We’ll keep you posted.
Pay talks intensify as parties attempt to reach agreement
Last updated: Tuesday 6th June 2017 (16:10)
It looks likely that pay discussions will continue into this evening (Tuesday), with the objective of reaching an agreement on an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement. It’s possible that talks will adjourn later on and resume tomorrow (Wednesday) if sufficient progress is made today.
Efforts to reach a deal intensified today as the talks entered their third week. IMPACT has said any package must have enough substance – in terms of improved incomes – to put to a ballot of members. The union also says management proposals to relax outsourcing protections are unacceptable, as are other elements of its proposed productivity measures. This afternoon has seen further exchanges on these issues.
No figures for pay, pension levy, or pension contributions have been put to the unions at this stage. This usually comes very late in the process.
Keep an eye out for further updates.
Last updated: Tuesday 6th June 2017 (00:01)
M: POP MUZIK
Many thanks to those of you who mailed or tweeted your appreciation of these updates over the last fortnight or so. One of our favourites was Cloghereen’s 2nd June tweet commending “heroic reporting on two weeks that could have been done by email.”
It sometimes feels like that alright, but things will intensify today when the parties reconvene in Lansdowne House at 11. Here are five things to look out for over the next few days, when we’ll discover whether or not a package can be put together – and put before members of unions who’ll have the final say in ballots.
M – Money
While most of last week was spent working on non-pay issues, we’d be surprised if there hadn’t been some informal chats about pay and pensions upstairs. If the lead negotiators judge the available cash gives the scope to do a deal, figures will emerge for wider discussion sometime this week.
All pay deals – public and private – turn on quantum (how much money’s available), time (the length of the agreement and phasing of payments), and productivity (the measures asked of workers in exchange for pay adjustments).
While the Government says it shares the union goal of unwinding the income-cutting FEMPI measures over time, its tight fiscal space inevitably places some doubt on whether any offer will be deemed acceptable.
At the very least, an agreement will have to contain a clear (ie, timetabled) path out of FEMPI for most public servants, plus improved incomes for the lower paid who’ve already said goodbye to the hated legislation.
If exchequer pressures mean it’s going to take time to do this – or that payments will (unusually) be ‘back-loaded’ over the lifetime of a deal – management will at least have to ease back on some of the unrealistic ‘productivity’ demands tabled last week.
P – Pensions
We know the Government wants to increase employee pension contributions as the existing pension levy is unwound. (We covered the background to this in our update of 30th May, which is probably worth re-reading as we enter week three of the talks).
This week we’ll know who will be asked to pay, and how much. Unions will work to increase the thresholds as much as possible. The other side will want to maximise the take. The navigation between this rock and that hard place may determine success or failure.
O – Outsourcing
We’ve banged on about this too often to have to make the point again (scroll down to the 24th May update). If it genuinely wants an agreement, management will just have to back off.
P – Politics
Congratulations to Leo Varadkar on his victory in the Fine Gael leadership race. Assuming the Dáil endorses him as Taoiseach, he’ll have the final say on any outcome before it goes to Cabinet.
The Dublin West TD has said nothing to suggest he would overrule any deal that his supporter Paschal Donohoe might reach.
Indeed, he’s used the language of pay restoration, which most of his Government colleagues avoid. But, as any Southampton supporter knows, new management always involves some uncertainty.
Background muzik by ‘The Meeja’
A recent superabundance of stories from Ireland and abroad ensured that these negotiations have had an unusually low media profile so far. But, despite another heavy news agenda, you can expect the spotlight to focus more brightly on Lansdowne House over the coming days.
Journalists compete to get the story out first, so any morsel of information or opinion can end up in a headline long before any talks outcome is finalised.
Our advice is to stay calm, keep in touch, but wait for the final outcome before forming a view on what’s actually achievable and what’s been achieved. That’s if we are able to achieve a deal, which is never a foregone conclusion.
Last updated: Saturday 3rd June 2017 (09:00)
It’s the end of week two and we’ve hit that non-Cinderella moment (scroll down to 18th May update) originally scheduled as the final day of talks on an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement.
A small bit of progress was made on text covering non-pay issues yesterday, though not on the crunch issue of outsourcing (scroll down to 24th May update). A lot remains to be resolved, and we’ve yet to get hot and heavy over pay and pensions.
Unusually for talks of this kind, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has set us free for the weekend. We’re back in on Tuesday and if this thing’s going to happen, it will likely happen on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. We’ll be packing our toothbrushes.
In the meantime enjoy the long weekend, even if you have to work it.
Last updated:Friday 2nd June 2017 (07:00)
IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody made a flying visit to the IMPACT divisional conferences in Wexford yesterday (Thursday), where delegates were eager to hear how things were going in the talks.
Health minister Simon Harris, who was addressing our health event, said he thought a deal could be done, while Shay reiterated the union’s view that management would have to ditch its outsourcing proposals – and come up with some substance on pay restoration – before we could put any deal to ballot. RTÉ was there to report.
After that we hot-footed it back to The Smoke where, how to put it? Frankly, nothing really happened.
A couple of sessions on sectoral issues in education and the civil service.
Some pay talks days go that way. Today we expect to get management’s reaction to our reaction to its text on non-pay issues (scroll down to yesterday’s update). Then we’ll react.
At the risk of trade union leaders looking like normal people, our guess is that we won’t see much activity over the bank holiday weekend. But Tuesday and Wednesday will be intense on the core issues of pay restoration, the pension levy, outsourcing, and pensions – including staff contributions to their costs.
And we’ll stick to the knitting (but make no promises) on the ultra-tough nuts of working time and new entrants’ pay.
Last updated: Thursday 1st June 2017 (07:00)
Scroll down to see earlier updates
Putting pen to paper
So far, these dispatches (and their younger cousins now being produced by other unions) have been the only evidence of pens hitting parchment during six days of talks. But yesterday (Wednesday) we finally got to look at some written-down words, as management presented an early draft on some of the non-pay issues it had tabled earlier.
This may not sound like a great deal of progress, but it signals the move into the second phase of the process. Over the next few days amended drafts will likely move to and fro in a dance that, hopefully will end up with an agreed text.
A lot of scribbling is going to be required, as yesterday’s first drafts weren’t that different to management’s verbal presentations (scroll down to earlier updates). Poetry it ain’t!
Take outsourcing. Let’s just say that the cathaoirleach of IMPACT’s Health and Welfare division will be among those disappointed at management’s first effort, which repeated its desire to pretty-much do away with existing protections. Opening the union’s health conference in Wexford yesterday evening, Maura Cahalan reiterated that this simply won’t wash.
“This is a red-line issue for us. We simply won’t vote for an agreement that puts decent jobs at risk, or which says it’s okay for vital public services to be delivered by staff on minimum wage, with no rights or representation, and no idea whether they’ll have a job next week,” she said.
Meanwhile, the union side has proffered its own lines on work-life balance issues (scroll down to yesterday’s update), and we’ll need wording on other union priorities too.
In case you’re wondering, paper is still stubbornly refusing ink on the big issues of pay, pensions and pension costs. The vocabulary on these fundamentals generally comes later in the process.
— IMPACT Trade Union (@IMPACTTU) May 31, 2017
Families get a day in the sun
IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody led the charge yesterday as unions tabled demands for more consistency in the application of family-friendly arrangements across the public services. A number of union spokespeople acknowledged the fact that sound family-friendly policies – flexitime, term-time working, job-sharing and so on – had been adopted and were working well in many parts of our public services.
But they said local managers had too much discretion, which meant family-friendly arrangements were often blocked by bosses who see them simply as a perk. This means staff in some areas are losing out. The current row between IMPACT and management in Roscommon County Council is an extreme example.
This should be a win-win issue, because family-friendly working helps employers keep hold of staff, encourages increased female participation in the workforce (which is a Government objective), and makes life more manageable and affordable for working mums and others with caring responsibilities.
IMPACT has suggested that an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement should set down best practice, and establish a process to deal with disputes over its local and sectoral implementation. Not a lot of enthusiasm for that on the management side, but we’ll certainly return to this before the end of the process.
Meanwhile, delegates from branches in IMPACT’s Civil Service, Health & Welfare, and Services & Enterprises divisions are heading to Wexford for their conferences, which take place over the second half of this week. They’ll get an update on the talks from their respective national secretaries, and we’ll have more for you tomorrow.
We’ve got to talk about money (or five not-so-easy pieces)
Pay was officially on the pay talks agenda for the first time yesterday (Monday) after a slightly frustrating week of management productivity asks (see yesterday’s update). But, rather than table an offer, DPER officials felt safer setting out what we already know from the Public Service Pay Commission report, and management’s earlier exposition on the ‘fiscal space’ (see the Tuesday 23rd May update). In the absence of actual movement, let’s consider five things to watch on the money front.
1. How much?
Though they always contain productivity measures, all public service pay deals turn on quantum (how much money’s available) and time (the length of the agreement and the phasing of payments). We’re probably contemplating a three-year deal, or thereabouts, because financial constraints mean it’ll take that long to achieve the aim of bringing most public servants out of the income-cutting FEMPI measures – an objective shared by all sides in the talks. While no offer has yet been made, we know the cost of unwinding what’s left of FEMPI would be a big chunk of the fiscal space projected for the coming years, and there are other demands on this too. But there is another dimension…
2. Why so? Well, staff earning €28,750 a year or less have already been taken out of FEMPI. These are the lowest paid workers in the public service, and nobody is seriously suggesting that their pay should remain stagnant for the next three or more years, while higher paid colleagues get increases. On the face of it, that will add to the cost of unwinding FEMPI. But not necessarily…
3. How come? Because the Government says it wants public servants – or at least those who started work before January 2013 – to pay more towards their pensions. This is on foot of a Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) recommendation, which said pension contributions should increase as the so-called pension levy comes down: This to reflect the fact that public service pensions are worth more, on average, than those in the private sector. While unions have been as cold as the far side of the pillow about management’s pay-cutting productivity wish list (see the Saturday 27th May update), and there’s no enthusiasm about extra employee contributions, we won’t be able to simply ignore a specific PSPC recommendation.
4. How simple! If only. Recruitment and retention issues were also discussed yesterday, against a backdrop of some openly seeking special deals (ie, more money). We counted at least 20 grades or professions where unions said there were pressing recruitment and/or retention issues, including certain IMPACT grades in health, local government and the civil service. If they all got up-front money as a solution, we’d soon be in fiscal outer-space – with nothing left for the bulk of public servants seeking pay recovery. The PSPC said the talks might establish a process for assessing the merits of the many claims in this area. That is certainly worth exploring further, while keeping the focus on the shared union priorities of unwinding FEMPI as quickly as possible and protecting the value of our pensions.
5. Howzat? Not yet. Over the coming days, we need to know how much the Government intends to allocate from what it says is very limited fiscal space. Then we need to talk about how best this ‘quantum’ can be used, and over what time period, to achieve an outcome that public servants can endorse in ballots. While all of us are getting a little impatient with the process, it’s not at all straightforward.
Don’t put your shirt on it
Fair play to Arsenal for a well-deserved FA cup final win against the favourites Chelsea. Thankfully the bookies don’t always get it right. On that note, we reckon the odds in favour of a pay deal being concluded and put to ballot have lengthened as we head into the second week of talks on an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA). There have been only two occasions in recent memory – both in 2009 – when national pay talks collapsed. The current process isn’t expected to be the third, but there are some troubling straws in the wind.
Money minister Paschal Donohoe and his government colleagues have consistently said they value the stability and certainty that comes with public service agreements. They also say they value the contribution that public servants are making to a remarkable Irish economic recovery, and claim they want another deal that will see an ‘orderly’ end to income-cutting FEMPI legislation over time. All good. But, half-way through the two weeks initially set aside for these talks, three worrying factors have emerged.
First, the Government negotiators are saying they have hardly any money available, especially next year. This suggests a conflict between their restrictive approach to pay recovery and their stated aim of getting all (or most) public servants out of FEMPI over the course of an extension to the LRA. Second, the management ‘productivity’ agenda seems designed to reduce incomes, rather than restore them.
Their frankly unballotable outsourcing project, which would replace quality services and decent work with minimum wage and bottom-line worker protections, is just one of a number of examples to emerge over five days of talks. Third, it’s just taking too long. Heading into week two, we’ve hardly got beyond DPER officials rehashing demands for stuff we didn’t concede at the height of the crisis (when pay was cut by an average of 14%, staff numbers were slashed, working time went up, paid leave went down, sick leave arrangements were halved, etc, etc). We’re due to discuss pay and pensions today. If the bookies are factoring in last week’s DPER performance, it doesn’t bode well for the prospect of reaching a deal that IMPACT can put to ballot. What are the odds on them putting their money (albeit limited) on win-win instead?
Management reminded: The crisis is over!
Yesterday (Friday) unions told Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) officials there’d be no concessions on premium payments for Saturday working. This followed management’s pitch for a ‘review’ of already-modest Saturday payments as part of an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement. IMPACT’s deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan was among a number of union reps to say the idea was a non-runner, not least because we’re here to talk about pay restoration. Indeed, more than one union head has asked why, in May 2017, management continues to table proposals that were rejected at the height of the crisis. The Public Service Pay Commission report said pay adjustments should, as always, be contingent on cooperation with productivity and reform measures. Few people have a problem with that, but some on the management team seem to think we still have the Troika at the gate. In similar vein, DPER is also looking for a review process aimed at introducing Saturday working in additional, though unspecified, parts the public service. We reminded them that thousands of public servants work weekends, and Saturday working has been introduced in many area following local or sectoral agreements. In other words, you don’t need this in a national deal to gain flexibilities if they’re really needed. Time will tell if DPER wants to push these issues. What is certain, at the end of week one, is that management’s desire to weaken outsourcing protections is a serious roadblock (scroll down to see update, Wednesday 24th May). Indeed, IMPACT is not the only union to say this is a deal-breaker. Talks have adjourned until Monday, when pay, pensions, and recruitment and retention issues are on the agenda. We’ll have more for you then.
Fiscal space, going forward
The term ‘going forward’ is a particularly good example of the sort of jargon we hate in the IMPACT Communications Unit. It’s a pompous term for ‘in future,’ something we already say and understand. But if there’s such a thing as good jargon, the much-maligned ‘fiscal space’ is surely it. It’s a pithy way of saying something much more cumbersome: the amount of money the Government has available to spend – on investment, tax cuts, extra staff, pay adjustments, or whatever – in any given year. In earlier updates, we hardly had space to explore the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s (DPER) ‘fiscal space’ presentation, which they made on day one of the talks. In it, they told us there would be €550 million of fiscal space in 2018, but that just €200 million would be left after existing commitments are met. The pressure eases in the following years, with €1 billion expected to be available to spend in each of the following three years – 2019, 2020 and 2021. There will also be other calls on the four-year total of €3.2 billion, including demands for extra public service staffing. But it’s not a lot to play with, especially next year. Unions usually work to ‘front-load’ pay deals, so that the biggest payments come early on. That looks like being very difficult this time. While we recognise all this, pay restoration also brings a value to the State and its people. Perhaps the Government has agreed to unwind FEMPI over time (which it has) simply because it wants to boost incomes and return what public servants lost during the country’s worst ever economic crisis. But its stated rationale is that a pay restoration agreement will underpin the economic and fiscal stability that Ireland needs as it faces into some pretty serious external risks. Brexit and all that. As we’ve repeatedly said, IMPACT accepts that pay adjustments must be affordable and sustainable, but they also need to have substance. Otherwise public servants simply won’t back them in the ballots that must follow the negotiation process. To put it another way, no deal will be accepted if it lacks substance. And if it’s not accepted, the Government won’t have certainty and stability it seeks. With that, we’re back into the talks this morning after a day’s respite on Thursday when IMPACT held its executive meeting and Siptu ran its conference. We’ll be sure to let you know what transpires, going forward.
What are they doing in there?
So, we’re past day three of the talks and nothing’s been agreed. Or, truth be told, advanced. This looks odd from the outside, particularly when the negotiations are meant to handle a lot of contentious issues in (hopefully) a short period of time. But there are reasons why it happens this way. The opening sessions (so far on pension contributions, outsourcing, working hours, rostering and more) are really about each side setting out its stall – and individual unions and departments making sure their pet issues get on the agenda. They also help the independent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) facilitators get a good grasp of the range and scope of the issues at hand, before the turkey-talking gets underway. That’s important. Yesterday afternoon’s short session on recruitment practices quickly led the WRC to declare that smaller sectoral meetings were needed. Earlier in the day, a more fractious session on pension contributions (as predicted, the Government wants most public servants to pay more towards their pensions) ended with the facilitators deciding to set up specific sessions on each of the complex and difficult issues involved. This is likely to be the pattern for the rest of this week. Later on, bottom line positions on both sides will become clearer. And eventually the possible shape of the various aspects of a deal will emerge. Experience suggests that the pace will then pick up, before slowing down again as the most important and difficult issues are thrashed out in the dying hours of the process. Speaking of difficult issues, we also had an exchange on working time yesterday. Unions made clear the issue of the ‘Croke Park hours’ wasn’t going away, notwithstanding Minister Donohoe’s repeated ‘red line’ statements on the matter. We’ll certainly be returning to this in the coming days, but it ain’t going to be easy. We’re back in on Friday as there is an IMPACT executive meeting and a SIPTU conference today. But we’ll have something for you tomorrow morning.
Why are we even discussing this?
Monday evening’s horrific events in England naturally dominated the headlines yesterday (Tuesday) and knocked IMPACT’s Bernard Harbor off a slot on RTÉ’s flagship Morning Ireland programme, where he’d been scheduled to talk about the pay negotiations.Our thoughts were with the people of Manchester as we headed into the second day of talks, where outsourcing was on the management agenda. It wants to weaken existing protections in the Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA), which prevent outsourcing on a ‘race to the bottom’ basis. At present, if management wants to outsource a service, or part of a service, the LRA requires it to consult with unions and produce a business plan setting out the case for what it calls ‘external service delivery.’ Crucially, it can’t cite labour costs (AKA pay) as part of the business plan. Abandoning the ‘labour cost’ provision would mean pretty much every business case would support outsourcing – on the basis of minimum wage and rock-bottom workers’ rights – regardless of the impact on service quality and worker protections. IMPACT made it crystal clear that there’d be no agreement that didn’t protect employment standards. In short, we’re not seeing eye-to-eye on this one. Today IMPACT and other unions will set out the case for the restoration of the so-called ‘Croke Park hours’. This is also a toughie, not least because Minister Paschal Donohoe has said keeping the additional hours is a ‘red line’ for him. We also expect to hear more from management on employee pension contributions. One or two readers have asked us why we’re even discussing management’s productivity wish-list in talks that are meant to centre on pay restoration. It’s a fair question. But, aside from the fact that the Public Service Pay Commission said additional productivity was required in exchange for pay restoration, the simple answer is that these are negotiations where either side can table whatever they want. Unions want to talk about things management would sooner not discuss, and vice versa. Later on in the process, we’ll have a better idea of what the bottom lines really are. Right now, IMPACT remains focussed on the key objectives of protecting the value of pensions and unwinding FEMPI as quickly as sustainably possible. In the meantime, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Last updated: Tuesday 23rd May 2017 (07:00)
Upbeat, downbeat and campaign drumbeats
Yesterday’s pay talks adjourned just after 3pm, having (surprisingly) kicked off with a reasonably upbeat finance department presentation on the broad economic outlook, albeit with heavy health warnings over Brexit and other external risks. The presentation on the economic outlook, by John McCarthy (Chief Economist at the Department of Finance) is available here. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) dampened the mood with a far less upbeat view of the available ‘fiscal space’, confirming projections that 2018 will be the tightest of the next three years in terms of cash available for pay restoration and other spending priorities. The presentation by Annette Connolly (Central Expenditure Management section in DPER) is available here. DPER went on to outline its productivity wish-list in the afternoon, and unions set out their non-pay agenda items, including working hours. DPER issued a statement after the talks adjourned, saying it would not issue further statements until talks have concluded. ‘Disproportionate’ The talks opened to the drumbeats of the Fine Gael leadership contest, as front-runner Leo Varadkar announced his intention to introduce legislation banning public sector workers from striking in ‘essential services’ if elected Taoiseach. IMPACT’s Bernard Harbor described the pledge as ‘disproportionate’ given the relatively few days lost through industrial action, and unions’ responsible provision of emergency and essential cover on the rare occasions that strikes do occur. “Our economic recovery was aided by responsible trade unions collectively bargaining with employers to ensure our public services weathered the worst economic storm in the history of the state. Any legislative attempt to shut that down would be disproportionate and ultimately damaging to good industrial relations practice,” he said. He noted that, in the context of a threatened strike by ESB workers, then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said the right to strike was a “pretty basic human right in most democracies.” Credit to Industrial Relations News, which reported those comments in November 2013. Bernard spoke to Claire Brock on the Newstalk Drive programme yesterday. You can listen back HERE (approximately 25 minutes in). Today’s proceedings will see smaller groups opening detailed negotiations on outsourcing, apprenticeships and various other non-pay issues. We’ll keep you posted.
@stokesofdublin @NewstalkDrive “If the Government wants an agreement we’re going to have something of substance to give to our members” – @stokesofdublin on @NewstalkDrive — IMPACT Trade Union (@IMPACTTU) May 22, 2017
And we’re off!
After months of preparation and talks about talks, the negotiations on a possible extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement finally get under way today. So let’s have a look at the runners and riders. There are four main groups directly involved in the talks. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the ICTU Public Services Committee, officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) and associations representing Gardaí and military personnel. Led by its director general Oonagh Buckley, the (WRC) will facilitate the process at Lansdowne House, its Dublin headquarters. The ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC) represents trade unions with members in the public sector. These include large ‘general’ unions like IMPACT and Siptu (who have members in many different occupations and sectors) along with organisations representing civil servants, craft workers, educators, doctors, prison staff, nurses, and other health professionals. Its lead negotiators are the PSC officers, who are elected by all the unions on the committee. These are IMPACT’s Shay Cody, Gene Mealy of Siptu, Sheila Nunan of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), and Tom Geraghty of the PSEU civil service union. The associations representing Gardaí and soldiers include the Garda Representative Association (GRA), the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), and PDFORRA, which represents military personnel. These organisations are currently banned by law from affiliating to ICTU, a policy that unions oppose. A small number of minor associations that choose to stay out of ICTU will also be on hand for consultation. Colin Menton, of DPER’s ‘remuneration, industrial relations and pensions division,’ heads up the employers’ team. The DPER officials represent and report to the Minister who, in turn, will ultimately need full cabinet approval if there is an agreed outcome to the talks. This time round, ‘new politics’ requires that any deal can command broad political support inside and outside of Government. Most of the negotiating is done by small teams drawn from one or more of these groups. Most commonly ICTU and DPER lead officials talking directly, or through senior WRC staff, before reporting back to their full groupings. But there will also be some plenary sessions, involving larger numbers of union reps and others. Occasionally, representatives from various Government departments – or union officials with specific expertise – might be deployed to inform discussions on sector-specific issues. Anyway, things kick off this morning with what’s likely to be a conservative Department of Finance assessment of the expected exchequer position over the next two or three years. This will give some indication of the expected ‘fiscal space,’ from which any pay adjustments will come over the next couple of years.
Last updated: Friday 19th May 2017 (08:50) The press is rarely silent in the days ahead of a national pay negotiation, but then it isn’t every week a Taoiseach resigns. The Leo and Simon Show has squeezed out pay-related news and comment three days out from the formal start of talks on Monday (22nd May). So we had a quick look back at IMPACT’s pre-talks analysis, which was published in the union’s Work & Life magazine last month. It’s too early to know how the negotiations will turn out, but almost two months after its publication, our look at the main issues looks robust enough so far. As predicted, Minister for Money Paschal Donohoe still talking up the benefits of an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement, while sticking firmly to his guns over union demands for a restoration of working hours. The also-expected emphasis on affordability has, if anything, intensified in recent weeks. This prompted IMPACT to warn last week (from our Local Government Conference) that the Minister needed to add the word ‘substance’ to his sustainability mantra. Delegates to that gig might remember our local government Cathaoirleach Sean Reid saying: “Of course we accept that any deal must be sustainable in terms of the public finances. But it must also have substance for staff who have endured almost a decade of pay cuts and income stagnation. As always, the workers concerned will have the final say on any outcome, regardless of how tough Minister Donohoe wants to look in advance of talks.” Well, that vote is some weeks off (assuming we can do a deal over the next fortnight) but another issue flagged in our April preview has very much come to the fore – the demands by some unions that their members should get bigger increases than the rest. IMPACT has been equally clear on this point, warning that it would be unlikely to put any such arrangement to ballot, and that members would be even more unlikely to accept it. Expect to hear more of our mantra: “We all went in to FEMPI together, and we’ll all come out together too.” In fairness, Minister Donohoe continues to strongly reject the notion that he’ll try to do different deals for different groups. No doubt we’ll hear more on this over the coming fortnight. Our analysis also pointed to the importance of maintaining public and political support for a deal, which means we must present our case to the outside world in ways that resonate with citizens and workers in other sectors. Furthermore, the guys and gals in Leinster House need to believe that any outcome is good for Ireland and not just its public servants. One reason why the Leo and Simon Show is relevant to all this. Read our earlier analysis HERE.
Last updated: Thursday 18th May 2017 (09:30) The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which is facilitating the pay talks, met separately with the ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC), the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) and non-Congress unions yesterday (17th May). In his capacity as PSC chair, IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody set out a comprehensive list of issues that the unions will table over the coming days. Chief among these are the unwinding of the FEMPI legislation in the quickest possible time, the protection of pension benefits, and a range of non-pay issues including working time. We understand that DPER made a similar presentation – setting out the Government agenda for the talks – earlier in the day. Senior WRC officials outlined how the commission intends to conduct the process in the two weeks starting next Monday (22nd May). The talks will kick off with a Department of Finance presentation on the expected exchequer position over the next two or three years. This is usually how a public service pay negotiation begins, because the available ‘fiscal space’ obviously has a huge impact on the size and phasing of any pay adjustments.
The two-week timeframe for talks outlined by the WRC ends on Friday 2nd June, the same day that a new Taoiseach will be announced following Enda Kenny’s resignation yesterday. It is not yet clear whether, or how, this might impact on the talks timetable. While there is no absolute deadline for the completion of the negotiations – midnight on 2nd June is not a ‘Cinderella moment’ – all parties have expressed a desire to conclude the process quickly. This is because a deal that includes pay adjustments in 2018 (which unions are seeking) would have to be factored into the October 2017 Budget announcement – and unions would have to complete ballots before that.
Updated: Wednesday 17th May 2017 IMPACT and other unions received a formal invitation to negotiations on public service pay recovery yesterday evening (16th May). Arrangements are now being made with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which will facilitate the talks, with the aim of starting work early next week. Yesterday’s invitation came from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, following Cabinet approval for talks on an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement. This was recommended in the report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) 2017, which was published last week. The report, which is summarised in this document found that average pay in the public service is now on a par with the private sector, and is 8% lower than in 2008. The union side will be led by IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody in his capacity as chair of the ICTU Public Services Committee. Shay said the union’s main objective in the talks will be to set a timetable for the quickest possible restoration of the pay cuts and pension levy imposed in 2009-2010. The union will also fight to maintain the existing value of public service pensions. IMPACT will also put the 15 million additional public service working hours, which were introduced under the Haddington Road agreement, on the talks agenda. However the Government says it’s unwilling to budge on this point, which it has defined as a ‘red line’ issue. The Government has also said it will seek an increase in employee pension contributions as the so-called pension levy is phased out over time. It was supported in this objective by the PSPC report. Read more about the PSPC report HERE.