The head of the country's largest public service union has called on the Government to open negotiations on a new public service pay agreement by May at the latest.
The General Secretary of Fórsa Kevin Callinan said that the size and timing of any pay deal will need to reflect the rising cost of living which he said was hurting workers regardless of what sector they work in.
Speaking at the AGM of the union's Kildare Health Branch in Naas this evening, Mr Callinan said the current public sector pay agreement, Building Momentum, had not kept pace with inflation, which was now far higher than projected when the deal was negotiated in late 2020.
This means that talks on a successor agreement "must prioritise the restoration and improvement of living standards in the context of high inflation," he said.
"We also need the Government to give an early confirmation that talks will begin in earnest no later than May 2022, to allow sufficient time to negotiate a package, consult with members, and ballot on the outcome in time for any necessary provisions to be included in the October Budget," he added.
The current public sector pay deal will end later this year and negotiations on a new agreement are expected to begin in the coming months.
Last week, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said he accepted that when the current public service pay deal was negotiated, inflation was not a significant factor, and that any successor to the agreement would have to take account of the rising cost of living.
"I am signalling a willingness in the coming months to enter discussions with the trade unions in relation to the possibility of a successor agreement, which will of course have to take account of the current economic circumstances, cost of living issues and also the Government's reform agenda to continue to improve the public services we supply to our people," he said on Friday.
Under the current public sector pay deal civil and public servants received a 1% pay rise in October 2021 and will receive a further 1% rise in October 2022.
Last week, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions called for increased wage rises in the private sector to reflect high inflation and advised unions to seek increases of between 2.5% and 5.5%.