The largest public service union, Fórsa has warned of potential industrial relations chaos in the new year after the current Public Service Stability Agreement expires in December.
Formal negotiations on a successor deal between the Government and public service unions have yet to get under way.
However, Fórsa General Secretary Kevin Callinan told his union's Consultative Council today that there is currently no basis for a negotiation with the Government on a replacement agreement.
He warned that in a vacuum without an overarching deal, and without an industrial peace clause incorporated in such a deal, there could be a very difficult and chaotic industrial relations climate.
He advised unions to start preparations for an "alternative strategy" involving the formulation of claims on behalf of almost 350,000 government employees to be submitted to public service employers when the current agreement expires.
Mr Callinan warned that if industrial unrest followed, the Government would be responsible.
He said unions had met officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on 8 and 22 September and were told the officials would have to consult with Minister Michael McGrath before formal negotiations could commence.
However, DPER has now cancelled a meeting with unions scheduled for tomorrow on the basis that they had not yet consulted with the Minister.
"If talks on a new agreement are sufficiently down the priority list not to have been run past the Minister since September, I wonder," Mr Callinan told RTÉ News, noting that they were still only talking about a basis for negotiations, not the actual negotiations themselves.
"We're in an uncertain period, where stability and certainty are at a higher premium than usual, and that is what a comprehensive national agreement would be designed to deliver.
"However, as it stands, it is not even clear if we will be entering into negotiations. That means there is now a grave risk that we will find ourselves, perhaps unintentionally, without an agreement at the end of the year," he said.
The Fórsa leader reiterated that any successor agreement would have to balance the current difficult circumstances with some recognition of the role of the public service, not just during the pandemic, but in contributing to the recovery from the financial crisis.
He also noted that any new agreement would have to reverse some of the austerity measures introduced, including additional unpaid working hours, two-tier pay, as well as specific grievances affecting individual groups like teachers and nurses.