On the sixth day of the public service pay talks, the Government has been been criticised for again failing to table detailed pay and pension proposals with specific figures included.
It is understood that this afternoon, the management reiterated its wish that some Government employees should pay more for their guaranteed pension benefits.
They were particularly focused on so-called "fast accrual" pensions of around 25,000 public servants including gardaí, defence forces, firefighters, judges and some politicians who are entitled to retire on full pensions without serving the standard 40 years.
However, unions confirmed that they had robustly outlined their categoric opposition to any extra contribution.
They voiced frustration at the fact that on day six of what was supposed to be a ten day process the government had still not tabled detailed pay and pension proposals.
Observers described the process as turning into a "slow bicycle race" - with some speculation that the current Fine Gael leadership race is contributing to the delay.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has repeatedly stated that it will not be commenting on the talks until they are completed.
Concern over staffing issues across public sector
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned that the issue of special pay rises to address recruitment and retention issues for nurses and other public service grades cannot be put on the long finger.
However, the largest public service union, Impact, has said that if special pay rises are sanctioned for individual groups where such difficulties arise, there will be less money for general pay rises for everyone else.
Speaking after a session on recruitment and retention issues at the public service pay talks, Impact Director of Communications Bernard Harbor said unions had claimed that over 20 groups were experiencing recruitment and retention issues.
They included not just doctors and nurses, but also other specialists in areas like IT.
Asked whether recruitment and retention could be a deal-breaker for a new deal, he said some organisations were insisting that this would have to be addressed if they were to secure an agreement that could be put to members.
He acknowledged that in some areas it was a serious issue affecting service delivery.
However, he said the problem was that there were so many groups reporting staffing difficulties.
Mr Harbor said unions knew that money was restricted - and money given to a particular group for recruitment and retention now, it would mean less for everybody else.
However, the General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran said nurses were not prepared to wait another three years for financial measures to address the crisis in nursing.
He noted that 80% of nurses and midwives due to graduate in August had already planned to emigrate, and there was aggressive recruitment under way in the private sector here and abroad.
He said there was a crisis in nursing and midwifery and to resolve it there would have to be pay-related measures and that would have to be accepted by management if there was to be peace, nurses would not be handcuffed by any industrial peace clause in an agreement.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said they would look at the information presented today and try to revert with some way of addressing the issue.
Govt sticks to stance on public service pension benefits in pay talks
Meanwhile, the Government has reiterated that it wants some public servants to pay more for their guaranteed pension benefits.
On day six of the talks, the management side has warned that as the pension-related deduction - pension levy - imposed during the economic crisis is rolled back, it will need to recoup over €600 million which it currently delivers to the exchequer.
It is understood that the State is proposing that the pension levy would effectively be converted into higher pension contributions for some groups.
Those expected to pay the highest contributions would be groups like gardaí, the defence forces, judges and some politicians who can retire on full pensions without serving the usual 40 years.
The management presentation also reiterated the limited fiscal space of €200m for next year, though pay will be competing for that money with other priorities including housing and childcare.
It is understood the management side also said its objective was to do a deal to take public servants out of FEMPI, the financial emergency legislation, as part of any new deal.
SIPTU's health division, meanwhile, has ruled out conceding productivity or reforms in return for pay increases.
It also warns that the expectations of members will be shaped by what it calls the "elephant in the room" of the extra €4,000 given to each garda in a special deal last November.
In an update for members, the union notes that pay cuts were implemented in a time of emergency - and now that the emergency is over, pay should be restored and productivity should be negotiated separately.
The bulletin warns that tensions are expected to remain high as the talks now enter their second week.
It says that week one consisted of unions resisting the management agenda, including a pitch to make thousands of public servants work on Saturdays with no premium payments.
SIPTU also pledges that it will not give a millimetre on management demands to loosen restrictions on outsourcing.
It hopes that as the talks enter their second week, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would be more creative than rehashing demands for measures that unions had refused to concede at the height of the crisis.
Earlier, IMPACT, the largest public service union, warned that the odds in favour of concluding a new public service pay deal had lengthened.
In a members' update on its website, IMPACT warns that while the current talks process is not expected to collapse, there are three troubling straws in the wind.
It notes that the Government values the stability and certainty that come with public service agreements, acknowledges the contribution of public servants to economic recovery, and claims to want another deal that would see an orderly end to what the union calls income-cutting financial emergency legislation over time.
However, it cites Government negotiators as stating that they have hardly any money available.
At an economic briefing earlier this week, the Department of Finance said that there would be just €200 million available for potential pay rises in 2018, with pressure from other spending priorities including housing and childcare.
The pay talks were originally scheduled to be completed by Friday, though a number of observers say that target is looking increasingly optimistic.