The recommendations of the Public Sector Pay Commission will not determine what the Government does in upcoming negotiations, according to Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Public-sector unions are relieved the commission report has suggested the unwinding of pay cuts under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act (FEMPI).
The report, published yesterday, does not suggest a timeline for the restoration of pay. Mr Donohoe was quick to emphasise the Government will dictate when and at what rate public-sector pay is restored.
The long-awaited report found the earnings of public servants at higher pay levels are in some cases “significantly” below their private-sector counterparts.
It suggests workers on “gold-plated” pensions benefit by between 12% and 18% and advises that public servants should make higher contributions towards these “legacy” schemes.
After bringing the report to the Cabinet, Mr Donohoe made it clear the Government would not be compelled by the recommendations, especially in relation to pay restoration, which public-sector unions see as a priority in upcoming talks.
He said: “While the Government continues to be committed to the affordable and orderly unwinding of FEMPI legislation, it is a matter for Government regarding how and when we do it. The demands in relation to the resources that are available are hugely significant.”
The commission, chaired by former Labour Court head Kevin Duffy, made findings around three key areas: Recruitment and retention of staff; the unwinding of FEMPI; and pensions.
It found that pre-2013 legacy pension schemes and fast accrual pensions are between 12% and 18% more valuable than private-sector pensions and must be addressed. Almost 270,000 public workers are on these lucrative pensions schemes.
It advised an increased employee contribution but did not give details of how this should be implemented or what rates should be applied.
Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary said: “Simply put, the next agreement must be placed on fiscally prudent and sustainable basis. The FEMPI legislation should be prudently unwound over the coming years, delivering real benefits to workers and the public alike.
"The Government needs to move swiftly towards initiating talks with the unions with a firm goal of achieving a sustainable basis for a strong public service.”
This was echoed by Labour TD Seán Sherlock, who called on a start to talks on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Mr Donohoe said there is a “continued need” for Ireland to remain competitive and that will have to be taken into account when talks begin with unions.
He said: “This will be a very challenging process. We will be dealing with a process that affects over 300,000 public servants in our State — a matter that is of grave interest to all of those who work elsewhere in our economy to fund the services that we are discussing.”
While he refused to give a deadline for the talks, he said he hopes they begin before the end of the month and that he does not believe they will drag on for months.