The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, has pledged to maintain current pay for the "vast bulk of public servants" in a new deal on public sector pay.

Minister Howlin plans reducing the public sector pay bill by an extra €1bn by 2015.

This is on top of a €3.3bn reduction that had already been targeted.

Talks between the minister and the public sector unions begin on Wednesday.

The minister said he already had a number of worked-out ideas, and he would set them out to the unions when he met them.

Minister Howlin said he wanted "as far as possible" to maintain current pay for the "vast bulk" of public servants, but that he needed them to "work longer, and more cleverly and in different, smart ways".