Unions and employers are preparing to take this morning's national pay agreement to their members.

The agreement reached after 22 hours of talks overnight provides for a pay increase of 6% for all workers to be paid over 21 months.

The money will be paid in two phases with a 0.5% increase at the end of the agreement for workers earning less than €430.49 per week, or around €22,463 per annum.

All private sector workers will have a three-month pay pause. They will then receive a 3.5% increase over six months and a further 2.5% for the following year.

Public sector workers will have an 11-month pay pause from the last module of Towards 2016.

They will then receive 3.5% for the next nine months (commencing 1 September 2009), and a further 2.5% for the remainder of the agreement.

Cowen commends social partners

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the new agreement would include provisions to prevent employers using temporary agency workers to break strikes.

There will also be a statutory prohibition on victimisation of trade union members, and on inducements to encourage trade union members to leave their unions.

'The National Pay Agreement will give a sense of confidence and stability in the challenging period ahead,' Mr Cowen said.

'The negotiations were very lengthy and complex and the social partners made commendable efforts to enable the terms of a draft Agreement to be identified.'

The Taoiseach said the agreement contains commitments on public service modernisation to reflect the OECD report.

He said he had not given any promises of commitments in the Budget in any specific way but had emphasised the difficult fiscal situation.

Mr Cowen said the deal would help to get the country back into a positive position when the economy recovered.

Turlough O'Sullivan, Director General of the employers' group IBEC, said there were many positives in the deal.

Reaction

Fine Gael criticised the new national pay deal, saying it will not deliver the reform needed to improve the economy.

Speaking at the party's parliamentary party think-in outside Limerick, Richard Bruton said it was a case of one small cheer for the agreement - but it was not the answer to the current problems.

Willie Penrose, Labour Party Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said 'the proposals on wage increases are probably the best that the trade union movement could have secured in the current climate, but clearly for many workers it will mean that they will only stand still and will experience no real improvement in their living standards, particularly if the government fails to bring inflation under control.'

He also welcomed the inclusion of the additional increase for low paid workers.

What Next?

Groups like Unite, the second largest trade union in Ireland, will now take time to consider the detail of the draft agreement.

Unite will consult its 60,000 members, most of whom work in the private sector.

'This has been a long and arduous process, played out against a background of rapidly changing economic reality for workers and the economy as a whole,' said Jimmy Kelly, Unite's Regional Secretary.

They do not expect a final decision for at least two weeks.