The union representing mid-ranking civil servants has warned that the time has come for the Government to restore what it had taken from public servants in pay cuts and changes to terms and conditions introduced during the financial crisis. 

Addressing the Public Service Executive Union conference in Galway, its president, Maria Ryan, said that in forthcoming talks on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, public service unions would seek a deal to "break the back" of the cuts imposed under financial emergency legislation known as FEMPI.

She also warned that the union would not sign up to any new deal that would erode public service pensions.

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Ms Ryan told delegates their aim was to ensure that by the end of whatever agreement is negotiated, they would see full income restoration for their members.

She acknowledged that the Lansdowne Road Pay agreement had come under strain after the €50 million a year special pay deal for gardaí conceded by the Government last year.

She said public service unions had been correct to seek accelerated pay restoration for other grades as it could not be acceptable that any one group was treated more favorably than another.

She also noted that the Government had now accepted that it was not sustainable to tell public servants to wait until after September 2018 to commence negotiations on further pay restoration.

She said unions were awaiting the report of the Public Service Pay Commission, which is due early next month, describing it as a road map out of what she called the "infamous" FEMPI legislation that provided the legal basis for cutting public servants' pay and conditions.

Ms Ryan acknowledged that securing full restoration - which could cost the taxpayer almost €1.5 billion - would be a big challenge against the background of uncertainty due to external factors including Brexit and the Trump presidency in the United States.

However, she said unions must face up to that challenge as the time had come to have restored what had been "stolen" from them.

She acknowledged that they might have to recognise than not all of their income would be restored in one go, and that any agreement may have to span a few years if the elimination of those FEMPI cuts in full were to be achieved.

She was scathing about critics of public service pensions, accusing them of a "beggar my neighbour" approach.

She said the background to this was that there had been an erosion of occupational pension covering the private sector.

Ms Ryan said that rather than generating what she called justifiable indignation that this had occurred, the effect had been to cause an inordinate amount of "beggar my neighbour" calls to disimprove public service pensions.

She said public service unions have spoken with one voice to say that they could not, should not and would not agree to any deal that cut the pension entitlements of public servants - and that any such suggestions are out of the question.

She also said a recent survey had revealed that the extra 2.5 hours per week imposed under the Haddington Road Agreement remained a huge issue for members.

However, she noted that unlike pay and pensions, on which there was unanimity across all unions, the issue of working hours had "varying degrees of importance" for different unions, which would make the issue more difficult to resolve.

Ms Ryan also called for more women to be involved in running the PSEU.

She told delegates that while almost 62% of members are women, they account for only 47% of branch committee members, 52% of Branch Officers, 40% of the Executive Committee, and around a third of delegates representing the PSEU at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference.

She also noted that at PSEU Head Office, all full-time officials are male, while all administrative staff are female.

She said they could not blame any employer for that fact that in their representative structures at every level women are underrepresented, adding that only the membership could change these levels of representation to enhance diversity and equality.