Free collective bargaining between the employer and employee is recognised as a primary feature of the Industrial Relations landscape in Ireland and is underpinned in legislation by the Industrial Relations Acts and more recently the Workplace Relations Act 2015. This system applies to the public service also.
This process has served the public service well during the years of fiscal and economic crisis. The negotiation and agreement by public service employers with staff interests of the Croke Park and Haddington Road Agreements have provided an agreed stable and effective industrial relations framework to manage a reduction of some 20% in the public service pay bill and a 10% reduction in public service staff numbers since the end of 2009. The Agreements have delivered increased productivity through a range of measures including the introduction of a new single pension scheme, reformed annual leave and sick leave arrangements and through the provision of additional working hours in a climate of industrial peace.
Following the conclusion of discussions on pay and reform in the public service on 29 May last, the negotiators on both sides, with the expert assistance of the LRC who oversaw the talks' process, have come forward with a set of proposals to form the basis of a new agreement, the Lansdowne Road Agreement. This will extend the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement to September 2018, while securing an Industrial Relations framework that will foster and support further productivity and change at the level of the workplace.
The proposals which provide for the beginning of the gradual unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) legislation, which was put in place in response to the financial crisis, are prudent and sustainable in the fiscal space currently available to Government.
Future pay determination in the public service will continue for some time to be dominated by the legislative constraints imposed on public service employers under the FEMPI legislation. Alternative pay determination structures which can provide a sustainable public service pay policy into the future and can apply when the FEMPI legislation is brought to an end will have to be considered by Government in due course.