Kieran Mulvey said he and his officials believe they have the agreement in principle “of potentially 10 unions who were opposed” last week.
One of those unions, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), said it hoped to secure an agreement which it could put to members in the coming weeks.
Steve Tweed, its director of industrial relations, said: “We have had more engagement in the past week than we were able to get throughout the whole process of the Croke Park II talks and we’ve made important progress on some substantial issues.”
The Government has agreed to examine a money- saving proposal from the IMO and Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) which would see the transfer of certain tasks such as drawing blood from non-consultant hospital doctors to nurses.
A two-week trial is to be carried out at the Mater Hospital in Dublin and Tullamore Hospital.
Liam Doran, the INMO general secretary, said that the continuation of such co-operation was contingent on the Government not imposing cuts to premium payments and extending the working week of nurses.
“As far as we are concerned, the proposals to cut premiums and extend the working week that were rejected by our members continue to be objectionable. If people impose cuts on our members then the reform of the health service will die very quickly.”
This uncertainty promp-ted the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to say that, as a contingency measure, it would continue to prepare legislation to achieve the required savings.
The potential deals which Mr Mulvey has so far brokered are mainly sectoral. The department said that the Government’s preferred option was an overarching collective agreement, but that “it is prepared to enter into agreement with individual trade unions in the absence of an overarching collective agreement”.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) said it cautiously welcomed the pay proposals and members would be balloted shortly.
“The central executive committee of the GRA acknowledges that premium payments for working un-social hours have not been reduced; and allowances remain untouched.
“The recent roster changes have transformed service delivery; but with decreasing numbers and resources, and no recruitment, the savings made in these proposals will have a direct benefit to the State, while minimising impact on an already stretched policing service and the personal wellbeing of our members who provide that service.
“Moreover, the GRA sees it as a highly significant development for industrial relations, as this is the first time that members of the gardaí have been afforded the opportunity to negotiate directly with their employers on their terms and conditions.”