As the talks enter their second week, Impact said it was now likely that the process would not be concluded this week, as initially hoped, and that on the basis of what has been heard so far it “doesn’t bode well for the prospect of reaching a deal”.
The comments are included in the trade union’s daily blog to members, issued in the early hours of this morning.
While there is little expectation of the talks collapsing, Impact said that discussions from last week did not signal a quick or easy resolution, and criticised some government proposals as “frankly unballotable”.
“We reckon the odds in favour of a pay deal being concluded and put to ballot have lengthened as we head into the second week of talks on an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA),” it said.
“There have been only two occasions in recent memory – both in 2009 – when national pay talks collapsed. The current process isn’t expected to be the third, but there are some troubling straws in the wind.”
Key to this view is the position of government negotiators in terms of the money available to pay for any pay increases, and the measures proposed.
Last week, the Government informed unions that while it has €550 million in total available, just €200 million of that will be available after existing commitments are met.
According to Impact: “First, the Government negotiators say they have hardly any money available, especially next year.
“This suggests a conflict between their restrictive approach to pay recovery and their stated aim of getting all (or most) public servants out of FEMPI over the course of an extension to the LRA.
“Second, the management ‘productivity’ agenda seems designed to reduce incomes, rather than restore them. Their frankly unballotable outsourcing project, which would replace quality services and decent work with minimum wage and bottom-line worker protections, is just one of a number of examples to emerge over five days of talks. Third, it’s just taking too long. Heading into week two, we’ve hardly got beyond DEPR officials rehashing demands for stuff we didn’t concede at the height of the crisis (when pay was cut by an average of 14%, staff numbers were slashed, working time went up, paid leave went down, sick leave arrangements were halved, etc, etc).”
When the WRC-moderated talks process resumes today it is due to turn the focus on pay and pensions, with government already outlining how it wants most public servants to pay more towards their pensions even as the pension levy is being unwound. The Government also wants a review of the additional monies earned by the State’s employees for working on Saturdays.