Public pay talks aimed at curbing strikes

Teachers went on strike earlier this year.

New deals aimed at curbing strikes in the public sector have been signalled by Tánaiste Joan Burton.

She insisted industrial action was “the last thing we want” as negotiations resume regarding the restoration of pay cuts imposed during the financial crash.

The Coalition is believed to be seeking commitments from unions to settle disputes via binding agreements.

Pressed on the issue, Ms Burton said strikes would not be the best way forward.

“It makes absolute sense to ensure we use that industrial relations structure, conciliation and arbitration discussion,” the Labour leader said.

Ministers are believed to be examining bringing in the restrictions as part of continuing talks on the restoration of pay cuts.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin said emergency legislation introduced during the financial crisis now needs to be unwound due to the improving economic situation.

The Government has made it clear it would not be possible to fully restore pay and pension cuts in one go, but would seek to do so over a period of time.

However, ministers see the move as a chance to try and get assurances from unions regarding industrial relations mechanism after recent disputes in parts of the public sector.

With the Haddington Road Agreement expiring next year, the Government is keen to get a more flexible replacement for the deal in the absence of a return to social partnership.

Talks with unions continue next week, though the Coalition is not yet ready to formally put forward its proposals on linking arbitration deals with the restoration of pay levels.

Ministers insist they are taking an even-handed approach to unions with the establishment of the Low Pay Commission to examine the minimum wage rate.

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