Resounding majority of SIPTU members vote to support new Public Sector Pay Agreement

SIPTU members throughout the public service have voted by a resounding majority to accept the proposed new Public Sector Pay Agreement 2024 – 2026 in a ballot counted today (Thursday, 21st March) at centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Speaking at the count centre in Liberty Hall in Dublin, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “More than 90% of votes cast by our members were in favour of the proposed new Public Sector Pay Agreement. This agreement would signify a marked improvement in pay for public service workers, it also safeguards against job outsourcing and the privatisation of services.

“In addition, a clause within the deal provides a mechanism to address local claims and disputes within the public service. Our members have decided that the agreement goes someway to addressing the cost of living and inflation challenges facing them. It also provides for a degree of enhancement of their terms and conditions of employment.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives will present this mandate at the ICTU Public Services Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, 25th March. The rejection or acceptance of the agreement by members of ICTU-affiliated unions in the public service will be determined by the aggregating of the results of all the ballots conducted by the individual unions. This result is expected to be known next Monday.”

SIPTU NEC recommends acceptance of proposals for new Public Service Agreement

The National Executive Council (NEC) of SIPTU met today (Thursday 31st January) to consider the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proposals for a new ‘Public Service Agreement 2024 – 2026’.

SIPTU representatives, along with colleagues in the Public Services Committee of the ICTU, have been in discussions over the last few months with the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP and Reform for a new Public Service Agreement. Following a period of intense engagement over the 25th and 26th January, a set of proposals were negotiated that will provide long lasting pay benefits to our members that are structured in a way that will assist them in dealing with the cost of living and inflationary crisis.

The proposals also provide for mechanisms to normalise industrial relations in the public service, a bargaining mechanism to allow workers deal with their grade related issues and, significantly, include procedures that protect our members against unilateral outsourcing.

The NEC, having considered the details of the proposals, decided that they should be put to a ballot of SIPTU members in the Public Service and Section 38 Agencies with a recommendation for acceptance.

The pay proposals secured by SIPTU and the other unions in these negotiations are crucially structured in a manner that is consistent with the outcome of previous agreements which prioritise the position of lower and middle-income earners.

If these proposals are accepted, SIPTU members will be covered by the provisions of this Public Service Agreement until the end of June, 2026.

Accordingly, the SIPTU National Executive Council recommends acceptance of these proposals which will be put to a vote of all our members in the public service in a secret ballot to be held over the period Monday, 12th February to Wednesday, 20th March, 2024.

SIPTU acknowledges invitation to public sector pay talks

SIPTU has acknowledged the invitation by Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, to enter negotiations with the Government on the potential for a new public service pay agreement under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The union has said that the officers of the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) would meet within the next 24 hours to discuss the terms of the invitation.

John King, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, said: “We have received the Minister’s invitation, and the Public Services Committee officers will meet within the next day to give consideration to his request.

“The officers will have to be satisfied that the invitation to talks provides a basis upon which an agreement could possibly be reached.”

The current public sector pay deal, Building Momentum, is due to expire at the end of the year. At SIPTU’s Biennial Delegate Conference (BDC) in Galway today, King laid out the union’s key priorities for any future talks based on a consultation of SIPTU members.

“Our members value their Public Service Agreement,” King said, “they want to be covered by a collective agreement, but not at any price.

“They want a return to normalised industrial relations across the public service and pay increases which ensure that the value of their pay is not eroded by inflation.

He also said that members would want to maintain the protective clauses in the Public Service Agreement against any form of outsourcing and secure clauses around service delivery which “grow and develop public service jobs and employment opportunities.”

In addition, King said, SIPTU members would want “a process where they can progress their grade-related issues.”

“Over the coming years we will continue to campaign and battle for better and improved public service provision for all our citizens,” King concluded, “delivered by directly employed public sector workers on fair pay that recognises their contribution.”

Talks on pay terms for health workers in the community and voluntary sector break down at WRC

The group of unions representing workers employed in community and voluntary sector agencies funded by the HSE, walked out of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) earlier this week in response to what the unions described as a “derisory” pay offer from the employer.

The union group, led by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said it would now proceed to ballot workers for industrial action. The ballots will take place in several employments in the sector selected by the unions, and likely to involve hundreds of health and care staff. While these agencies are funded by the state, their employees in a range of health professional, clinical, clerical and administrative grades, are on lesser terms and conditions than their HSE counterparts.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The breakdown of these talks is a complete body blow to thousands of healthcare and community workers who had a legitimate expectation that they would be getting a decent pay rise coupled with the restoration of the pay link between Section 39 workers and workers in the public service. Is it unacceptable that workers providing essential public services are not being paid public service rates of pay. The government cannot continue to turn a blind eye and must grasp the nettle. There is over a 10% pay gap that is feeding a huge recruitment and retention crisis in Section 39 services. The reality is that if this continues, services will be shut down, and the HSE will then have to step in to provide these services. It’s completely counter-intuitive. The strategy of being penny wise and pound foolish with the provision of these services is completely intolerable, and our members won’t stand for it any longer. We will now engage with our members with a view to resuming widespread industrial and strike action across these services.”

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Divisional Organiser, Karan O’Loughlin, said: “ Our members in the community sector have been extremely patient while waiting for the government to put forward a reasonable and acceptable proposal. Despite their patience, this hasn’t happened. Our members are not prepared to wait any longer. For every member of staff freshly recruited, another experienced staff member is walking out the door. The situation is grim, and the offer this morning suggests there’s little, if any, political will to tackle it. Real pay improvements for staff are the only means of stemming the high rate of staff exits each year and to fulfil recruitment targets for vital health services, including disability and homeless services.”

Fórsa national secretary Ashley Connolly said the offer, which had been sanctioned by Officials from the Department of Health, Department of Children Equality, Disability, Youth and Integration and HSE, fell far short of expectations: “This morning’s pay offer amounted to 5% in a single year, falling far short of the current public service agreement.

“These are workers providing professional health and social care working shoulder-to-shoulder with their public service counterparts. The employer’s offer suggests they were never that serious about resolving the growing pay disparities and the growing problem of employee retention. Any prospect of an agreement was essentially extinguished this morning,” she said.
Maeve Brehony of the INMO added: “The Government has been dragging its feet on this issue for years, while making conciliatory noises to health workers who urgently need pay improvements.

“They haven’t seen a significant pay rise for years, their colleagues are walking out the door for better terms elsewhere, and there appears to be no sense of urgency at Government level, despite the growing waiting lists for the services these agencies offer,” she said.
Until 2008, workers in these agencies received pay increases under national wage agreements. At the onset of the financial crisis they were subject to FEMPI pay cuts in line with the same cuts applied to public sector pay. Limited pay restoration measures were eventually won by unions in 2019 but pay in these agencies remains significantly behind, and no formal mechanism for collective pay bargaining exists for workers in the sector.

Union research has revealed that recruitment and retention of professional health staff in these employments has become a major challenge. Employers are consequently burdened with higher recruitment costs and growing waiting lists for services.

A Message to SIPTU Health Division Members on Public Services Day

Today (June 23rd) is Public Services Day. It is a United Nations Day which is intended to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlight the contribution of public service in the development process; recognise the work of public servants and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.

The last few years have demonstrated the importance of public healthcare as Ireland battled the Covid-19 virus. Employees within public health services were either fighting the virus in their own employments; or were redeployed to assist in other areas. They did this in the early days of the virus spreading, with little knowledge of what they were combatting and, in the very early days, while they awaited the delivery of life-saving PPE.

Staff in private healthcare and voluntary organisations also added to the effort to fight Covid-19. Workers in private nursing homes dealt with outbreaks. Private home care workers went into homes to care for the elderly and disabled in our communities. Private hospital workers dealt with cases that could not be cared for in the public system as it concentrated on dealing with Covid 19. Those working for disability services in the voluntary sector continued to provide care to their clients; and endeavoured to give them a sense normalcy in their lives while the virus raged.

We stood outside our homes and clapped for our ‘frontline heroes’. Citizens made goodwill gestures of every description to healthcare workers in their communities. People hung messages of solidarity with healthcare workers from the front of their houses. There was a genuine sense that we were all in this together.

Despite the near-universal recognition for the work done by our members, issues remain with the provision of public health services throughout the country.

Private companies continue to expand in the nursing home sector. Workers in voluntary organisations continue to provide essential services to the State while being paid a fraction of their colleagues in the public service.

And yet, our members continue to put their shoulder to the wheel in pursuit of fair pay and decent terms for union members.
Workers in Section 39 agencies have progressed their dispute to the point of taking industrial action, with more promised if pay justice is not secured in their sector. SIPTU continues to secure pay deals for workers in private and voluntary organisations. Our members in the public service have battled for increases in pay through the public service agreements and mechanisms such as the HSE Support Grade Job Evaluation Scheme. Members in all employments continue to argue and campaign for safe staffing. The Union continues to pursue a claim for an appropriate scheme to assist healthcare workers suffering from Long Covid.

All these efforts demonstrate one thing. There is value in being a member of a union. Our members not only campaign for their own issues but for a safe, and appropriately staffed health service for society at large.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary says public sector funding faces 5% cut by 2025

Funding for the public sector faces a 5% cut in real terms by 2025, which will result in a decline in services, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, told the SIPTU Health Division Biennial Delegate Conference in Waterford today (Wednesday, 26th October).

Addressing more than 200 delegates, King said: “The figures would indicate that nominal expenditure on public services will increase by 6% between 2022 to 2025. However, when inflation is factored in, spending falls by 3%, and when population growth is also factored in, spending actually falls by 5%.
“These outcomes are about the implementation of political choices. The effect is not good for public servants and it is not good for wider society. They will lead to poorer services for the less well-off and the marginalised in key areas of public service provision.”

King added: “When we compare Budget 2023 spending on public services to our European Union peer group we find another key result, that is that Ireland is at the bottom of the table when it comes to public service spending. We need to significantly increase our public spending to achieve the quality of service which the citizens in our EU peer group enjoys.”

King also highlighted the failure of the Government to adequately fund organisations that provide services on behalf of the HSE but are not formally part of the public sector.

He said: “The denial of funding for these community and Section 39 organisations for pay increases for their staff, who provide essential public services to our most vulnerable and marginalised citizens and communities, will have profound negative consequences for our society.”

He added: “Last week in the Dáil, in response to a motion submitted by the Labour Party, two senior government Ministers acknowledged that these workers not having a pay rise for 14 years is not acceptable, particularly in light of the cost-of-living crisis that all workers are suffering.

“These workers must not be left out of the ‘whole of government’ response to this inflationary crisis, and I am calling on those Ministers to act now on their words and put in the necessary process to address this issue once and for all.”

The SIPTU Health Division Biennial Delegate Conference in the Tower Hotel, The Mall, Waterford City concludes this evening.

SIPTU National Executive Council Statement On The WRC Proposals On The Review Of ‘Building Momentum’ Public Service Agreement

The National Executive Council (NEC) of SIPTU met on Monday, 5th September 2022, to consider the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proposals on the review of the pay provisions of the Public Service Agreement, Building Momentum.

SIPTU, along with colleague trade unions in the Public Services Committee of the ICTU, invoked the review clause of the Agreement arising from the cost of living and inflation crisis.

The NEC, having considered the details of the proposals, decided that they should be put to a ballot of SIPTU members in the Public Service and Section 38 Agencies with a recommendation for acceptance.

The WRC proposals issued in respect of the Review, when taken with the existing measures of Building Momentum, are structured in a manner that is consistent with previous public service agreements which prioritised the position of lower and middle-income earners.

The NEC also noted the position of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that economy-wide cost of living measures would accompany pay improvements. These measures will be addressed in Budget 2023 and through the Labour Employer Economic Forum which is to meet in September 2022.

If these proposals are accepted, it will extend the current Public Service Agreement until the end of December 2023. Negotiations on a successor Agreement for 2024 and beyond will likely take place during the Summer of 2023.

Accordingly, the SIPTU National Executive Council recommends acceptance of these proposals in a secret ballot vote to be held over the period from Monday, 12th September to Wednesday 5th October, 2022.

Your Questions Answered – Proposals on a Review of ‘Building Momentum’

In March 2022 the Public Service Unions of the ICTU (PSC) invoked the Review clause in Building Momentum because of high and sustained inflation, which was not anticipated when the agreement was negotiated in late 2020.
On 30th August 2022, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) published proposals for a public service pay package aimed at resolving differences on pay between public service unions and the Government.

The PSC met and agreed that individual unions should consult and ballot their members on the proposals. The PSC will meet again on 7th October 2022 to make a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package.

What are the pay proposals being balloted on now?
The package would make the following pay adjustments:
• 3% with effect from 2nd February 2022
• 2% with effect from 1st March 2023
• 1.5% or €750 a year (whichever is the greater) with effect from 1st October 2023. The €750 a year floor means those on lower incomes will receive a larger percentage increase than higher paid staff (see below).

Is this in addition to existing Building Momentum pay adjustments?
Yes. The WRC-proposed increased would come on top of those paid and scheduled under the original Building Momentum agreement.

These are:
• 1% or €500 a year (whichever is the greater) from 1st October 2021. This floor of €500 provided higher percentage increases to workers on lower incomes.
• The equivalent of 1% increase through sectoral bargaining from 1st February 2022. This fund was used as a general pay round (PAC Division) and to address long-standing claims with the Health Division.
• 1% or €500 a year (whichever is the greater) from 1st October 2022. Again, the €500 floor means those on lower incomes will receive a larger percentage increase than higher paid staff (see below).

How do lower paid workers benefit more?
In percentage terms, the package is worth an additional 6.5% between February 2022 and December 2023, on top of existing Building Momentum pay adjustments.

But the cash floor of €750 (in October 2023) means a higher percentage increase for workers who earn below €50,000. This includes special needs assistants, most clerical staff, and general operatives.
For example, the salary level of a person earning €25,000 a year would increase by 8% and the salary level of a person earning €37,500 would increase by 7%.

These measures when taken in conjunction with the provisions of Building Momentum provide significant increases to workers on lower incomes.

When would I receive the 3% increase due in February 2022?
If the package is accepted, the first additional increase of 3% will be backdated to 2nd February 2022. This would appear in pay packets as a ‘lump sum’ back-payment after the agreement is ratified. This would likely be in November or December 2022.

Are there additional non-pay elements to the package?
While there are no additional non-pay elements in this specific package, the Government came to the negotiations promising that economy-wide cost-of-living supports would accompany any pay improvements. These are expected to come through the 2023 Budget announcement (scheduled for 27th September 2022) and the Labour-Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), which is Ireland’s main national forum for social dialogue between unions, employers and Government.

Does the WRC package affect sectoral bargaining under Building Momentum?
No. The ‘sectoral bargaining fund’ established under the original Building Momentum agreement is not affected by the WRC proposals. Groups of public servants that opted to use this 1% fund to address outstanding adjudications, recommendations, awards and claims relevant to specific grades, groups or categories of workers will continue to do so. Groups that opted to use the allocation as a straight 1% payment have either received it, or are due to receive it with effect from 1st February 2022.

Do the pay improvements apply to allowances?
The increases would apply to pensionable allowances and the higher hourly rates will also benefit through recently-restored overtime/on call allowances.

What about part-time workers, job-sharers, etc?
If the proposed agreement is accepted, pay adjustments will be delivered through revised pay scales. Part-time workers and others who don’t work full-time hours will get pro-rata adjustments based on the number of hours they work.

Who would the package apply to?
The package would apply to workers currently covered by the Building Momentum agreement, including staff directly employed in the civil or public service, staff in ‘section 38’ agencies, and staff in Non-Commercial State Agencies.

Are there any productivity measures in the package?
There are no additional productivity measures in the WRC-proposed package. It reaffirms the measures in the original Building Momentum agreement.

What is the duration of the WRC-proposed package?
The package would extend the duration of Building Momentum by one year, so that it would expire on 31st December 2023. Unions would expect to be in negotiations on a successor agreement around the middle of next year.

How would this affect public service pensioners?
Under public service agreements, increases in public service pay scales are generally reflected in public service pensions that are linked to pay scales. The PSC has written to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform seeking confirmation that, if accepted, this will apply to the WRC-proposed package in the usual way.

How will a decision on accepting or rejecting the package be reached?
Individual ICTU-affiliated unions representing public servants are now consulting with their members and arranging ballots. The unions will meet again to take a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package on Friday 7th October. Voting at that meeting will be weighted to reflect the number of public servants that each union represents.

What about planned industrial action ballots?
The ICTU Public Services Committee (which represents most unions in the sector) has recommended that planned industrial action ballots be suspended while unions consult on the WRC package.

WRC-proposed public pay package skewed to lower paid

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) this morning (Tuesday) proposed a public service pay package aimed at resolving differences between public service unions and Government officials following over 19 hours of talks. The ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC) subsequently met to consider the proposal at 10.00am today.

The package would see pay increases of 3% with effect from 2nd February 2022, 2% from 1st March 2023 and 1.5% or €750 (whichever is the greater) from 1st October 2023. This is in addition to 1% or €500, whichever is greater, due at the beginning of October 2022.

The minimum payment of €750 a year from next October means the package would be worth 8% to a worker earning €25,000 a year and 7% to a person on €37,500 a year.

This morning’s PSC meeting decided that individual unions should now consult members, through ballots and other means, on the package in advance of a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package. This will take place at a further PSC meeting on Friday 7th October, where voting will be weighted to reflect the number of public servants that each union represents.

PSC chairperson Kevin Callinan said he believed the outcome of this long process was the best that could currently be achieved through negotiations.

“We’ll now be explaining this package to union members, who will have the final say in ballots. Neither side has achieved all it sought, but this package is a significant improvement on the pay terms of Building Momentum, and it is worth more to those who need it most. This underlines the importance of the unions’ decision to invoke the review clause in the current agreement.

“Over the past weeks, Minister McGrath and his Government colleagues have repeatedly promised to supplement pay measures with other cost-of-living supports through the Labour-Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) process and the forthcoming Budget. Workers will now expect delivery on that promise. A Government failure to deliver will certainly impact the ballots that will shortly get underway,” he said.

PSC secretary John King said the PSC was also recommending that planned industrial action ballots be suspended while unions consult on the WRC package.

The pay talks resumed at noon yesterday (29th August) after a ten-week hiatus during which the Government said it was reflecting on its position. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said his revised offer was final, although union negotiators held out for an improved sum for lower paid public servants.
The total 2022-2023 increases due under the WRC-proposed package would be:

1) 2nd February 2022 3%

2) 1st October 2022 1% or €500 a year (whichever is the greater). Note, this was agreed under the original Building Momentum agreement

3) 1st March 2023 2%

4) 1st October 2023 1.5% or €750 (whichever is the greater).

These are in addition to Building Momentum increases of 1% or €500 a year (whichever is greater in October 2021, plus a sectoral bargaining fund worth 1% of annualised basic pay from 1st February 2022.

John King also said that the Union would holding a meeting of its National Executive Council as part of a process to commence consultations with members immediately, in advance of commencing a ballot vote for acceptance or rejection of the proposal’s.

Public Service Pay Campaign Update – 24th August 2022

SIPTU Officials representing members in the Health, Local Government, Education and State-Related Sectors attended a meeting in Liberty Hall on Wednesday, 24th August. At this meeting they were updated on the union’s Public Service Pay Campaign and considered the invitation from the Workplace Relations Commission to attend a resumption of talks on Public Service pay beginning next Monday, 29th August.

Following the meeting, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary and Secretary of the Public Services Committee of Congress, John King, said that union representatives will attend the upcoming talks as part of the ICTU delegation. He said the focus of these talks will be to conclude a review of the pay terms of the ‘Building Momentum’ Public Service Pay Agreement, which has been sought by SIPTU and other unions since March 2022.

SIPTU, as part of the Public Services Committee of ICTU, is currently consulting with its members and preparing for ballots on industrial and strike action. This is part of a campaign to secure a review of the pay terms of the ‘Building Momentum’ agreement which adequately compensate workers for the loss in the value of their earnings which has accrued due to the cost of living crisis and high rate of inflation.

King said the consultation process with SIPTU members in the Public Service will continue and in the absence of a successful outcome to the talks, which are recommencing on Monday, that the union will begin balloting members on industrial and strike action in early September.