Union leaders are optimistic they can reverse pay gaps for public service workers that could potentially benefit up to 60,000 employees.
Trade unions met with Government officials yesterday in the latest attempt to close the gap for workers hired after 2011 who were put on lower rates.
Forsa’s Shay Cody said that while the Government had not given unions any guarantee that they may change their position on any cash restoration before 2021, the fact that they were talking showed that they could make progress.
Teachers, gardaí, and health workers are among those on different rates for those entering jobs after 2011.
The unions are seeking restoration of equal pay rates and estimate that changes could benefit up to 60,000 people.
The Government previously agreed to a review and to hold talks. The review concluded that restoring pay grades in line with those of existing workers could cost up to €200m.
There has since been no agreement and the Department of Public Expenditure was among groups that met with the unions yesterday.
Unions are also pushing for changes to be introduced in October’s Budget to start the pay restoration process.
But the Government says this would breach the scheduled pay agreement, if alterations were made to rates for public service workers in some areas before 2021.
Small and medium business groups are also pushing back against the trade union efforts, warning of possible knock-on impacts or costs to the private sector.
Private businesses point out that public service workers have more secure pension and employment benefits.
Those businesses also want Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to stand firm against union pressure and say taxpayers would have to foot the bill for any pay restoration agreements.
Speaking after the meeting yesterday in Dublin, Siptu’s Adrian Kane said: “Following initial discussions today the two sides have agreed to a further meeting on the issue of pay for public servants in June.
"The period before that meeting will be used by both sides to establish the full extent of the issues which are to be discussed.
“It is imperative that the two-speed pay scale issue in the public service is resolved in a timely manner. Public servants took a massive hit in their pay during the financial crisis. This was largely done without agreement, through the introduction of the draconian FEMPI legislation.”
Details provided by Government during the talks are also encouraging, union figures said.
Siptu Health Division organiser Paul Bell, said: “The data provided by Government today certainly gives us food for thought.
“Government officials confirmed that over 25,000 health workers have been employed in the health service since 2011. Almost 8,000 are Siptu members working in support grades.
"It is now necessary to urgently proceed to analysing the incremental points of each new entrant since 2011.
“We believe that today’s engagement with the Government confirms that a positive environment exists and that with the right political will, a just and satisfactory outcome for all parties to the talks process can be achieved.”
No commitment was given by Government yesterday.
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