The Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission, who will oversee the upcoming public service pay talks, has warned that securing a deal will be difficult and incredibly complex.

Speaking at the Annual General Conference of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS), Oonagh Buckley said that securing a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement would be even harder because of the pay expectations that had built up.

The AHCPS is demanding that pay restoration for its members be accelerated as it prepares for public sector pay talks.

The association - which represents 3,000 State employees - held its annual conference in Dublin today.

Ms Buckely said 25 unions would be represented, and not all of them, like the garda bodies and the Defence Forces, were members of the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Retired public servants, who had experienced pension cuts during the crisis, would also have to be accommodated.

In addition, on the employer side there would be representatives of various sectors across the public service.

She stressed that the parties would come to the WRC facilitators with their proposals, and would have ultimate ownership of the eventual outcome.

However, she cautioned that unions would be aware that they would have to defend any potential deal to their members, who would be balloting on it.

Meanwhile the Government side would also have to be able to stand over it, as there was huge interest in the outcome - not just among Government employees directly affected, but also among the general public.

Ms Buckley welcomed the fact that both sides had expressed a desire for an agreement, describing that as positive.

In a wide-ranging presentation on the work of the WRC, she also voiced concerns about the rise in self-employment and new employment structures. 

She said trade unions had informed her that there are building sites now where not a single worker is an employee, and all are self employed.

She said this had implications for the Revenue Commissioners, the Social Insurance Fund and for pensions.

She said that everyone should be concerned if there was a shift to push people into what she called novel forms of employment, warning that the taxpayer would end up picking up the tab. 

Ms Buckley also told AHCPS delegates that the WRC is working on a policy document examining the issue of mandatory retirement at the age of 65, which she said was increasingly coming under challenge.

While the AHCPS welcomes the commencement of pay restoration, it said for "meaningful and lasting" talks to take place there has to be an even playing field for all members.

The association is also calling for any future pay determination process to be free from political interference.

A report on pay and benefits was shared with delegates at the conference.

The newly commissioned research shows senior public servants at a disadvantage when compared with private sector equivalents.

Its findings show that salaries of AHCPS members are currently between 30% and 60% less when compared with equivalent roles in the private sector.

AHCPS General Secretary Ciaran Rohan said that "to safeguard skilled public services, workers must be paid appropriately".

"The strategy of disproportionately targeting and side-lining the higher paid in pay negotiations has proven to be short-sighted and ill-advised," said Mr Rohan.

The union said a report on pay and benefits carried out by the Institute of Public Administration had revealed that principal officers are earning 60% less than their private sector counterparts, while assistant principal officers are on 30% less. 

Senior grades earning over €65,000 experienced more pay cuts during the economic crisis than those below that threshold.