The removal of unpaid hours that are still being worked by civil and public servants under the 2013 Haddington Road Agreement would not lead to additional costs, reduced productivity or poorer service quality.

That's according to the Public Services Committee (PSC) of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which claims €150m set aside to tackle the issue under the current public service agreement, Building Momentum, would be enough to "largely achieve" the unwinding of the hours.

Under the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA), from July 2013, the standard weekly working weeks of many civil and public servants were lengthened by several hours in order to help achieve the overall pay and pensions savings to the exchequer of €1bn.

Unions representing workers claim the unpaid hours were always temporary and since then most other cost savings signed up to under the HRA have been reversed.

The Building Momentum agreement, which was agreed last December, contains a commitment to address the issue through an independent body chaired by Kieran Mulvey.

In its submission to Mr Mulvey, the Public Services Committee of ICTU says the unpaid hours continue to act as a debilitating drain on morale and productivity across the civil and public service.

The committee, which represents 90% of public servants, claims the burden of the additional hours fell hardest on women, including nurses and other health professionals.

As a result many had to make difficult changes to childcare and other caring duties, it says.

There has never been a systematic effort by management to measure the productivity benefits of the unpaid hours, it states.

It also asserts that the hours have been counterproductive when it comes to the delivery of service as well as productivity.

"The continued requirement to work the hours is seen as a throwback to a past period of enforced austerity, where a worker’s contribution was measured in terms of pain imposed rather than the gain added to public services and those who rely on them," it says.

The Government has estimated that it would cost around €620m to remove the unpaid hours from the system by increasing staffing, agency cover or other means.

However, the PSC claims that this doesn't take account of the fact that not all the unpaid hours will necessarily need to be replaced, because of other efficiencies and productivity changes that have been achieved in services since the Haddington Road Agreement was introduced as an austerity measure.

It estimates instead that €150m set aside by the Government under Building Momentum should suffice.

The PSC claims that civil and public servants consider the extra hours were effectively imposed, even though they were introduced by agreement, because they were presented as a sole alternative to a third pay cut for low and middle income public servants.

However, some public service leaders have challenged the notion that the unpaid hours were meant to be temporary.

Last year HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid, who fronted the 2013 negotiations, told the Industrial Relations News conference that it had always been intended that those hours and other reforms would be permanent.

Eliminating the hours in the health sector alone would equate to losing 3,000 staff, it is estimated.

Kevin Callinan, chairman of the PSC, said a commitment to resolving the issue had been fundamental to getting agreement on Building Momentum.

"It is absolutely clear that there would not have been a public service agreement unless this issue was addressed," he said.

He added that if progress is not made it would set the tone for talks on a successor agreement that are likely to begin next year.

Secretary of the PSC, John King from SIPTU, said the unpaid hours are one of the last pieces of austerity measures imposed on public servants that have yet to be unwound.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said until it is resolved the unpaid hours problem could continue to cause difficulties for recruitment of nurses.