Talks on a public sector collective agreement will conclude this morning but the threat of a strike remains

Talks aimed at reaching a public sector wage agreement between the government and unions concluded this morning.

Negotiations at Workplace Relations continued late last night.

Unions representing some 340,000 state employees were locked in talks with government officials at WRC headquarters in Dublin.

The WRC is set to relay the proposed deal to all sides this morning, but the parties have remained silent on the details.

Talks first started after unions triggered a clause in the Building Momentum deal allowing for review.

Unions have warned they will not discuss an extension to the existing deal, which expires at the end of December, until a review is completed.

The government has been warned that if new talks fail to come up with a “credible” salary offer, civil servants will start voting on industrial action later this week.

The union’s chief negotiator, Kevin Callinan, said preparations for the vote were progressing as he arrived midday yesterday for fresh discussion of a review of the current Building Momentum agreement.

Talks resumed yesterday morning after the collapse last June.

They collapsed after the unions rejected an additional 5 percent pay rise for members spread over this year and next.

This is in addition to the 2 pieces that will be paid under the deal this year – 1 piece of it this past February and another piece due in October.

Mr Callinan pointed out that unions could refuse to lift the strike threat even if WRC officials demanded it do so.

“I think the way we would react, we’ve been waiting 10.5 weeks for a change on the government side, we’ve been listening to different ministers hinting at different things,” he said. “Hopefully we didn’t realize until now what that would mean, so I don’t think we’re going to change our position on industrial action at this point. From today’s perspective, the elections are running.”

Mr Callinan said nobody wanted industrial action.

“But in circumstances where there was an absolute pause on the part of the government, we had no choice but to mobilize our members,” he said.

“Those arrangements are in place, voting will continue later this week if we are unable to reach an agreement here.”

He declined to comment when asked to respond to reports the government would be offering 1 piece extra.

“But what’s clear since we were here 10.5 weeks ago is that inflation, the cost of living, has gone up another 1.5 percent,” he said.

“We are here to do business, just like we were on June 17, but the Government side needs to act credibly for us to strike a deal.

“I don’t think the total offer in June would make the deal. We are here to negotiate. We will not speculate on specific numbers.

“What we need to achieve here is something that recognizes how much workers suffer from the cost of living and employers, including government, who can afford it need to help with that.”

Antoinette Cunningham, of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said she expected it to be a challenging day at the talks.

She said the association will discuss its next steps at its conference in Athlone in three weeks.

Meanwhile, sources said the government would make an offer of the order of 1 extra piece and a lump sum for the lower paid people, on top of the extra 5 pieces that had been rejected.

But they said it would be a “tough sell” with union members. An additional 1 piece would cost an additional 250 million euros, on top of the additional 5 pieces worth 1.2 billion euros. Talks on a public sector collective agreement will conclude this morning but the threat of a strike remains

Fry Electronics Team

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