Officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform held discussions with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this evening.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to a continued collective approach to public service pay issues after ICTU's public services committee met with the Department.

Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said that "both sides reiterated their commitment to a continued collective approach to public service pay issues".  

The spokesperson added: "It was agreed that current issues arising in relation to the terms of the Lansdowne Road Agreement could more appropriately be dealt with by the parties under the relevant provisions of the LRA.  

"Both parties have agreed to remain in ongoing contact over the coming weeks on the issues raised."

The LRA was negotiated to reverse pay and pension cuts for public service workers imposed since 2008. It extends the Haddington Road Agreement until 2018.

Earlier, the Cabinet discussed a memo from Mr Donohoe, which suggested that the public sector will need 8,000-9,000 additional staff every year up to 2021, costing €400m a year.

Ministers reaffirmed their position on a collective approach to public sector pay and discussed the demographic requirements in terms of new recruits.

A spokesman has said no decision was made in relation to any change to the timeline for talks on a successor to the LRA. 

It is understood that ministers felt the Government should not be bounced into a timeline for public sector pay talks, following an ultimatum from SIPTU President Jack O'Connor.

He has called on the Government to name a date for talks to begin before February next year, or SIPTU will ballot members for industrial action. He has given the Government until Thursday to set a date.

The talks are officially to begin next September, but some ministers have privately said they believe the talks will begin early next year.

Separately, the IMPACT trade union, which represents mostly public sector workers, called for talks on a new pay agreement to succeed the Lansdowne deal to be brought forward.

Bernard Harbor was speaking as Cabinet ministers discussed the escalating crisis over public sector pay.

At least five trade unions, representing junior doctors, nurses and public service workers, are pursuing pay claims in the wake of recent proposals to avert a strike by gardaí.

IMPACT's head of communications has said he would like the Government to announce new talks on the Lansdowne Road Agreement to begin early next year.

Mr Harbor said the announcement should be made soon, but said it would not be the end of the world if the announcement was not made by the end of today.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Harbor said he believed the Government understands that something needs to be done to "bring Lansdowne Road forward" and preserve the agreement.

Recommendations made in favour of gardaí altered the situation, he said.

He added: "If the Government wants to sustain the Lansdowne Road Agreement, they will have to accept that that won't be possible unless there's some amendment to the agreement.

"Once people see that others, outside the agreement, have been treated differently, the agreement just simply will not hold."

Mr Harbor said it is not a particular surprise that the Government is saying no money is available but money will have to be found, in the same way it was found for gardaí.

The Taoiseach, meanwhile, has said he has no intention of presenting a similar case for the Defence Forces to access the industrial relations machinery of the State such as the Labour Court or the WRC.

He said access was made available to gardaí on an ad-hoc basis.

Such access, he told the Dáil, would continue on an ad-hoc basis until legal provisions are introduced to deal with  the matter.

Public service pay agreement is 'fatally flawed'

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Dara Calleary has said the Government must show leadership in the debate on public sector pay.

He said public services need to be protected and the Government must show it is in control and have a plan for dealing with the issue.

Speaking at Leinster House, he said Fianna Fáil cannot see where funding will come for extra increases but is prepared to see proposals as long as they do not impact public services.

He said Fianna Fáil is prepared to be positive but that in the context of a budgetary framework that is going to be under pressure because of Brexit and the US presidential election.

The Government must stand up and deal with the vacuum it has created when it did not establish the public service pay commission and long fingering the garda and teacher issues, he added.

Sinn Féin has described the Lansdowne Road public service pay agreement as a lame duck agreement which is fatally flawed.

The comments come as the party launched its framework for a new public sector pay agreement.

It says its framework is based on equal pay for equal work, and a clear pathway to pay restoration.

Sinn Féin accuses the Government of having no plan to address the lower pay rates for post 2011 recruits to the public service outside of what it calls "divisive sectoral agreements" with certain unions already within the LRA.

It also notes that there is no commitment from the Government to allow for equal pay for equal work across the public sector.

Given the rise in industrial action to date, it said, it is not tenable that any such process would only begin in two years' time when the LRA expires.

Sinn Féin said that a commitment to equal pay for equal work should begin in 2017 with the restoration of certain allowances for post-2011 nurses, doctors, teachers and gardaí.

The document does not provide a costing for this move, which could have a significant impact on the Government's financial projections.

In response to a question from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said there is a need to be fair to both public and private sector workers.

He said the Government will stand by Lansdowne Road and signalled that the Government would start a well managed process that will be better for public servants generally.

Labour TD Ged Nash, meanwhile, has said that as happened with the Haddington Road Agreement, the Lansdowne Road deal should be collapsed into a new one when talks begin.

He said a coherent approach was needed.

His party colleague Jan O'Sullivan added that Fianna Fáil was adopting the Government position.