Ireland: Latest working life developments – Q3 2016

The establishment of a Labour Employer Economic Forum, pay disputes involving the police and teachers, and the resolution of pay disputes by Dublin bus and tram drivers are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Ireland in the third quarter of 2016.

Labour Employer Economic Forum set up

In July, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Pascal Donohoe, announced that the government had decided to set up a Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF). He described it as a 'formal structure for dialogue between representatives of employers and unions to discuss economic and social policies insofar as they affect employment and the workplace'. 
He said the idea came from the success of the National Economic Dialogue (NED) held earlier in the year, adding, ‘I believe it will allow for the government to better formulate policy in a post referendum, pre-Brexit environment.’ Minister Donohoe said the forum would exchange views on issues affecting the economy, employment and the workplace.

Some other areas it could also consider include:

  • competitiveness;
  • sustainable job creation;
  • labour market support;
  • widening occupational pension coverage.

Mr Donohoe underlined that the aim would not be to reach agreement but to develop a shared understanding and some degree of consensus on key policies affecting employment and the workplace. He emphasised that it was not social partnership: 'The Labour Employer Economic Forum will not discuss or determine wage levels or wage increases within the public or private sector.'

Police reject proposals on pay

Members of the police force (Garda Siochana) rejected a proposed deal on pay restoration that would have put them within the terms of the Public Sector Agreement (the Lansdowne Road Agreement). The Garda and members of the second level teaching union, the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI), are the only groups that are still outside the agreement.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has now threatened industrial action by its 10,500 members in November. This is seen as a direct challenge to the partial nature of pay restoration in the Lansdowne Road Agreement. The ‘unilateral withdrawal of services’ threatened by GRA is planned for 4 November, 11 November, 18 November and 25 November, and was backed by the special delegate conference in Tullamore, County Offaly, on 28 September, as one of three motions. One motion rejected the proposals made by the government on 23 September, and the third decided that these proposals should not be put to a ballot of the membership.

Transport disputes

A dispute over pay at the Dublin tram company, Luas, was resolved on 3 June 2016 when drivers voted to accept the Labour Court recommendation. The dispute had involved several days of strike action, with staff rejecting a Labour Court recommendation and proposals that emerged from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Drivers at Dublin Bus also took strike action in a dispute over pay in the third quarter, rejecting a Labour Court recommendation of an 8.25% phased increase. The parties entered talks at the WRC and a new agreement was reached that provided for a non-cumulative pay increase of 11.25% over three years to be paid at the rate of 3.75% in January 2016 (backdated), 2017 and 2018. The WRC agreement was accepted by members of both unions involved in the dispute – the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) and the National Bus & Rail Union (NBRU).

Teachers’ deal on pay for new entrants

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) reached an agreement with the government to partially restore the pay of teachers who were recruited to the public service after 2011, having lost a number of allowances as part of cuts brought in during the financial crisis. According to TUI, these cuts could amount to a loss of around €300,000 to a teacher over a 40-year career. The new agreement on pay restoration, along with the other increases payable under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, means there will be a 15% increase in the starting salary of teachers between 31 August 2016 and 1 January 2018 (€31,009 to €35,602). Members of the ASTI are not party to the pay agreement as they are still outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

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