Unions warned over pay talks

Trade unions have been warned by the Government that it could act unilaterally and formulate its own method of pay restoration to public servants if agreement cannot be reached through negotiation.

The first session of talks on pay restoration for the country’s 290,000 public servants adjourned after a short meeting yesterday.

The Government side is understood to have told unions that the discussions are predicated on continuing and building on the productivity gains secured through the Haddington Road and Croke Park agreements.

It also pointed out that there is a limit on how much it has to spend on public service pay and additional staff numbers and that it has a restricted range of measures it can use to unwind the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest economic measures.

The measures available are changes to the pension levy or a reversal of part of the pay reductions, or a combination.

The Government said that it could propose changes to the legislation to the Oireachtas but Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin wants it to be done by agreement.

For their part, the unions said that their preference was for a single agreement for the entire public service, for a flat-rate solution which gives something to all while disproportionately benefiting those on lower rates.

They said the pension levy was the preferred vehicle but it was not assumed the levy would be the sole mechanism to achieve pay restoration in all cases.

The sides are to meet again tomorrow when the Government will give a presentation to unions on the fiscal parameters under which it can operate.

The negotiations will then begin in earnest next Tuesday.

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