Ministers deny refusing to talk as public sector set to ballot next month

The Government has denied claims it refused to engage in talks on a review of its pay deal with public servants as preparations begin for ballots next month.

embers of the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are due to meet tomorrow to sign off on ballots for industrial action.

Local authority workers who are Siptu members have announced that they are preparing to vote next month.

And a senior Siptu official warned that the Government faces a deluge of pay claims next year if an extension to the current wage pact is not agreed, as it expires at the end of the year.

Siptu deputy general secretary John King said yesterday that by refusing to re-engage with the Workplace Relations Commission to deal with an escalation in the cost of living, the Government is in breach of the terms of the current agreement.

“Far from refusing to re-engage with the WRC, the Government has remained in close contact with the WRC throughout this process including last week,” said a spokesperson at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

“The Government has made it clear at all times that it wishes to reach an acceptable agreement on new pay arrangements and remains prepared to enter meaningful discussions with the trade unions under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission in order to achieve this.”

Tomorrow’s meeting of the public sector union leaders comes after talks on a review of the pay deal broke down last month.

The discussions were triggered by unions who sought a review of the Building Momentum deal due to soaring inflation.

The Government made an offer that would mean public servants receive increases worth a total of 7pc over this year and next.

A 1pc increase paid to most staff in February and a further 1pc that is due in October are included in this figure.

Siptu sector organiser Brendan O’Brien warned that pay claims will be submitted for next year if no extension to the current deal is agreed.

He said unions invoked a review clause of the Building Momentum agreement on foot of “runaway inflation”.

“The Government has offered an additional increase of just 2.5pc for the 2021-2022 period of the current agreement,” he said.

“This is clearly inadequate when inflation is likely to be more than 9pc over that period.”

Siptu warned in a statement that public servants are preparing to ballot for industrial action over the Government’s “failure” to review the pay deal.

It said that its members across the public service will begin a consultation exercise in advance of ballots for industrial action shortly.

It said the consultation will involve union members and activists in the health service, local government, education and State sectors in the coming weeks.

Mr King said talks at the WRC were deferred on June 17 when the Government side claimed it needed time to reflect.

“With the Dáil now in recess until early to mid-September, it is clear that it is not prepared to engage in meaningful discussions on the cost of living crisis,” he said.

“In these circumstances, we are now left with no alternative other than to ballot our members in order to protect their standard of living.”

Fórsa general secretary and Irish Congress of Trade Unions president Kevin Callinan has ruled out industrial action that might disrupt the Budget.

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