The Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ Public Services Committee has met in Dublin to consider the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform's invitation to enter discussions on public service cost-cutting and related issues.

The Committee, which is made up of all ICTU-affiliated unions with members working in the public services, has agreed to meet representatives of public service management next week for an initial discussion.

Speaking after the meeting IMPACT's Bernard Harbor said the unions had agreed to go into that meeting without any preconditions.

"I think an important caveat is that most of the unions involved have yet to consult internally about their attitude to the talks, and that's the basis on which we'll be going into this meeting," Mr Harbor said.

In the meantime, the Committee has asked unions to undertake whatever internal consultations are necessary prior to a negotiation, if they have not already done so.

The Committee will make a further statement following the initial talks with management, which are expected to take place next Wednesday 28 November.

Earlier, Mr Howlin said the Government was looking for further savings in the public sector pay bill in a way that protects core pay.

He said some allowances were part of core pay and need to be protected, but others were not.

Mr Howlin said he believes public sector unions will engage in talks over what he called "a Croke Park extension".

He said he was not countenancing unions walking away from the talks.

"They know the desperate state the country is in. They know what has to be done. We've explained it. We need to explain it again to the broad membership," he said.

He said the Government was not invoking the collapse of the current agreement.

"The current agreement is extant," he said, "but I'm inviting the public sector unions to address a real issue that they know exists, and that I've talked about to them, and that is the unallocated further savings that are in the profile of expenditure."

Mr Howlin said the Government is looking at all mechanisms that are best practice in private industry including shared services, better procurement, looking at overtime and premium pay, and restructuring the working week.