Public sector workers call for higher starting salaries

May 17, 2024

Public sector workers will today call for an increase in starting salaries amid claims that pay for new entrants is far too low.

The issue will be debated at the biennial conference of Fórsa, the country’s largest public sector trade union.

More than 700 delegates have gathered in Killarney for the event which began last night and will run until tomorrow.

Around 200 motions are being debated on topics including pay, remote working, sick leave, pensions, artificial intelligence and the rise of the far right.

Last night’s opening session was dominated by the issue of housing.

“The Irish economic success story is being actively undermined by the ongoing accommodation shortages in all Irish cities, towns and rural areas,” Kevin Callinan, Fórsa General Secretary said.

“A growing number of younger people are locked out of housing and locked out of starting an independent life,” Mr Callinan said.

Pay

On the issue of pay, a series of motions will call for increases in the starting salaries of new entrants in the civil and public service.

“This conference instructs the National Executive Committee to negotiate a change to the incremental scale to improve the starting pay and pay progression for new entrants. The starting pay in the public service is still very low and appears to be affecting recruitment,” one motion states.

A new public sector pay deal was agreed in January which provides for pay increases of 10.25% over a two-and-a-half year period.

The deal includes a local bargaining mechanism to allow individual grades, groups and categories of public servants to have specific issues addressed. A number of motions at the Fórsa conference will call for this mechanism to be used to improve low pay for new entrants.

Delegates will also discuss shortening pay scales, the living wage and overtime. One motion calls for the introduction of an urban living allowance.

Sick leave

A number of motions focus on annual leave and sick leave arrangements.

Delegates will hear calls for greater supports in the area of menstrual health, improved domestic violence leave entitlements and enhanced supports for people going through a separation or a divorce.

There are also motions calling for leave entitlements linked to fertility treatment, surrogacy, miscarriage and abortion.

“This conference calls on Fórsa to engage with the Government to implement legislation for abortion leave. No woman should be forced to take ordinary sick leave or unpaid leave and be at a financial loss when accessing this healthcare,” one motion states.

Remote working

Motions on remote working relate to the right to disconnect, blended working expenses as well as calls to safeguard people’s work-life balance.

One motion raises concerns over ‘insidious tools’ and tracking devices used by companies to monitor remote workers.

“This conference calls on the incoming National Executive Committee to ensure that our employer(s) should never be allowed conduct any remote monitoring by installing such software or tools,” according to the motion.

Proposals on artificial intelligence (AI) call on the union to conduct research on how the technology will impact the workplace

One motion suggests that Fórsa should seek a policy of de-automation of Government services so as to protect service provision to the general public.

On international matters, delegates will reaffirm their support for the people of Ukraine, condemn the violence in the Middle East, and will hear calls to boycott and sanction Israel.

Guest speakers

Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland, is among the guest speakers at the conference.

Delegates will also hear from a range of leading trade unionists including Esther Lynch – General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, Owen Reidy – General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and Phil Ní Sheaghdha – General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO).

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