Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Pay Freeze.

7.

asked the Minister for the Public Service if it is the intention of the Government to impose a pay freeze on the public sector next year, as reported in the news media recently.

The 25th round agreements for public service groups expire on 30 June 1987. The standard terms of agreements concluded for the Civil Service, gardaí, Defence Forces, teachers and health workers provide for a 3 per cent increase from 1 May 1986, a 2 per cent increase from 1 January 1987 and a further 2 per cent increase from 1 May 1987. Most manual workers in the public service have accepted an alternative agreement with increases of £5 per week from 1 May last and £6 per week from 16 February next.

These agreements also provide for the implementation of special pay awards on a phased basis. The first phase of some of these increases is being paid from 1 December; the first phase of the remaining increases is not due for payment until 1 December 1987.

The Government's view of what should happen on the expiry of current rounds, in both the private and public sectors, is set out in their statement of 18 September last. As regards the commercial State bodies — whose agreements terminate earlier than in the public service generally — the Government believe that, for a variety of reasons, settlements in these bodies should be below inflation, should last for a period of 18 months and should include a substantial pay pause. However, many bodies face such severe financial constraints they may not be able to afford any increase in order to ensure their survival.

May I ask the Minister if the Government policy of a few weeks ago still remains and whether the three statements made in the name of the Minister for Finance regarding pay freezes, possible pay freezes and likely pay freezes in 1987 have Government support?

I have been asked to answer a question on behalf of the Government as to what is their position on the question of public pay and I have answered that question.

Can I take it there is no foundation in the widely publicised statements in the name of the Minister for Finance about how public service pay will be handled in 1987? Can I further take it that the full terms of the present round will be paid, other than in the case of people not being able to pay through lack of finance which would not apply to the public service at large, and that the next round will be negotiated next June? Is that Government policy?

The Deputy, who is the Opposition's spokesperson in this area, can take it that the statement I have given in reply to the question in the name of his colleague, Deputy Calleary, is Government policy. There has been no change. The statements made by the Minister for Finance in the context of the financial difficulties which confront this nation stand on their own merit. With regard to specific Government policy, the position regarding the public service agreement, the 25th round as it may more colloquially be known, is as I have outlined it to the House today.

A Cheann Comhairle——

A final supplementary.

The Minister responsible for public service negotiations is clearly at variance with the Minister for Finance and it can be taken that all public servants who negotiated the 25th round will be paid on the basis of agreements previously reached and on agreements reached on back pay for special awards. The statement made by the Minister for Finance on departmental headed notepaper are not Government policy.

The position is that we have entered into agreement with the trade unions in respect of public service workers. The policy of the Government is that that agreement will be honoured. Tragically for all of us, financial difficulties still confront us and we must resolve them. The Minister for Finance is clearly dedicated to trying to do so. The answer I gave on the floor of the House this afternoon is the policy of the Government.

There will not be any pay freeze.