Talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) continued late into the night as both Government officials and public sector representatives worked to come up with a deal as time ticks down.
While it had been expected that union representatives would be presented with pay and pension proposals from the management side early yesterday, at 6.30pm, no such package had been put forward as both sides were still trying to reach agreement on non-pay related elements.
The Government remains adamant that the efficiencies gained through previous deals cannot be touched and so it will be difficult for unions to make significant progress on recouping the additional hours public sector employees now work.
However, last night representatives were working hard find a solution that would satisfy both sides.
Unions have strongly opposed management proposals to relax outsourcing protections with Impact describing such a plan as “unacceptable”.
In 2015 the Lansdowne Road Agreement introduced a restriction preventing labour costs from being included in a business case for a service to be outsourced. However, the Government wants to lift that restriction.
Unions insist that would mean every proposal from the private sector, for a public service, would succeed on the basis of “minimum wage, rock-bottom conditions, and zero job security”. But efforts to reach a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement did intensify and momentum built yesterday evening as the talks entered their third week.
Unions believe a deal must be done today with one source stating: “If we can’t do it [today], it’s probably not doable. I am not saying it’s a red-line but there comes a point when you have to do a deal or not at all.”
While the management side had yet to provide details on the amount it will be willing to make available for the restoration of pay in the next three years. But with just €200m available to cover all additional expenditure in 2018, pay hikes are unlikely to be front-loaded.
The controversial issue of pension contributions is expected to be one of the final elements to be discussed.
However, Government hopes to retain €550m of the €700m generated by the public service pension levy, meaning some workers will have to pay more towards their pension schemes.