Minister Donohoe notes the decision taken by the Labour Court not to exercise its powers under the Industrial Relations Acts

29th January, 2019

The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D., noted the decision today by the Labour Court not to exercise its powers under the Industrial Relations Acts to investigate the dispute between the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and Health Service employers due to the significant gap that remains between the positions of the parties.

In commenting on this development the Minister stated “The Labour Court is an independent and expert body and I respect their judgement. Their decision undoubtedly reflects the fundamental issues at dispute between the parties on the claim by nurses who wish to generate additional pay increases over and above those provided under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) to which they have subscribed. It also follows a series of intensive but unsuccessful engagements between the parties facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission. These bodies will continue to remain available to the parties to assist in the resolution of the dispute and public service management will also remain available at all times to seek a resolution of this dispute.”

Existing Pay arrangements in the public service are attractive with incremental progression, flexible working arrangements and strong pension entitlements compared to the private sector (where only an estimated 35% hold an occupational pension). Indeed over the last 5 years (Dec13 to Dec18) we have recruited an extra 3,876 nurses and midwives or 11% of the total. Importantly these are additional staff, over and above retirements and leavers, and shows that the public service is able to recruit and retain nurses and midwives.

The Minister added “The nursing unions are seeking a significant increase in pay over and above all of the benefits of the current Agreement seeking parity with other health professionals. Concession of this pay claim, even if possible, would have serious consequences for the public finances and for public pay policy generally with estimated costs of €300m annually based on a 12% claim in pay.  However, it would not end there.  It would, I have no doubt, generate knock-on or ‘leapfrogging’ claims from the rest of the public service workforce, where there already other well aired pay grievances”.

Concession of additional cost increasing claims of this nature would completely undermine the Government’s budgetary position at a time of significant risk and uncertainty. We need look no further than the ongoing developments in relation to Brexit to see how real those risks are.

The government has tried to be fair to all public service workers and will continue to do so. All parties should continue to engage actively within the confines of the Public Service Stability Agreement and using the various industrial relations mechanisms available in order to ensure that Health Services are not disrupted in the period ahead.



Public Service Pay and Stability Agreement 2018-2020

Pay rates in the public service are currently being increased by approx. 2%-2.5% per annum through the Public Service Pay and Stability Agreement 2018-2020 (PSSA). This is broadly in line with wage increases in the private sector. Benefits are considerably higher for new entrant single scheme pension members and lower paid public servants. The cost of the Agreement is €1.1bn out to 2021 and represents a significant investment in public service pay increases.
On top of the pay increases provided under the PSSA, the Minister announced last September agreed proposals relating to the so-called “new entrant pay” issue. These proposals will deliver an average of an additional €3,000 over the coming years starting in March 2019 to over 60,000 post-2011 new entrants, including 10,000 nurses. The measure will cost an estimated additional €75m (€28m in 2019 and €47m in 2020) in the lifetime of the PSSA.
In addition, the Public Service Pay Commission completed its examination of recruitment and retention in the health sector in August. After an in depth assessment they found no general recruitment and retention difficulties in respect of nurses and midwives and the argument that a general pay increase is necessary was rejected by the Commission. Instead they recommended a 20% increase in the Location and Qualification Allowances and accelerated promotion to senior staff nurse/midwife level in order to incentivise nurses and midwives to work in certain areas. The Minister agreed that, if accepted, those measures would be implemented in March 2019, at a full year cost of a further €20m.
Taken together these pay arrangements would deliver substantive benefits to nurses and midwives over the course of the next two years. For Example between January 2019 and December 2020:
A newly qualified Staff Nurse, hired in October 2018, will see their basic pay increase by €7,141 or 25% from €29,056 to €36,196.
A Staff Nurse with more experience, on point 6 of the scale, will see their basic salary increase by €6,973 or 19% from €36,383 to €43,356. In addition they will benefit from changes to the amount of PRD paid and the increase of the qualification allowance worth a further €1,724. In total therefore they stand to benefit by approx. €8,700 or 24%.
A Clinical Midwife Manager newly promoted from Staff Midwife in December 2018 will see their basic salary increase by €4,251 or 9% from €48,361 to €52,611.
On average nurses and midwives earn an additional 20% on top of these basic salaries in allowances, overtime and premia payments. The current average pay including these payments is estimated in the region of €57,000.

Industrial Peace

The maintenance of industrial peace is an essential requirement of the Agreement. All parties to the Agreement, including nursing unions, commit to:
No cost increasing claims;
No claims related to improvements in pay or pensions or any related matters; and
That all forms of industrial action are precluded.