The Government could face a 6% pay claim if it refuses to abolish additional unpaid hours imposed on public servants during the economic crisis, according to the Fórsa trade union.
Speaking to journalists at Fórsa's Civil Service Divisional Conference in Kilkenny, incoming Senior General Secretary Kevin Callinan strongly disputed the €620m value which the Government had placed on the additional 15 million hours per year introduced in 2013 in lieu of a further pay cut for lower and middle income earners.
He said the union believed that the productivity secured from those hours was worth 6%, and if the unpaid hours were not abolished with a reversion to the shorter pre-crisis working hours, then a pay claim was inevitable.
Mr Callinan noted that, in 2013, the unpaid hours had been introduced for public servants earning less than €65,000 in lieu of a further pay cut.
However, a pay cut introduced at the time for those earning above that threshold had since been fully restored while the unpaid hours remained in place - a situation which he described as unfair.
Mr Callinan said that if workers had taken a 5% pay cut at the time, it would have been restored by this stage.
He said members were now of the view that recovery seemed to be first about the better paid, with the lower to middle incomes being left behind.
Mr Callinan said the situation was now quite different from what it was a number of months ago as the current Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) had been "stretched" and it was simply not going to be possible to maintain confidence in the agreement unless there was a change to produce an outcome that restoring its credibilty.
He said exploratory discusssions about a mid-term review of the PSSA are under way in the wake of the nurses' settlement and unions would expect it to address issues including erosion of pay gains through inflation, the ability to address sectoral claims, and the unpaid hours.
Mr Callinan also alluded to last year's report from the Public Service Pay Commission wich raised the prospect of a pay review at an appropriate time for various grades, groups and categories. He said they needed to find a way for the issues of individual unions to be prioritised and dealt with in an agreed process.
Asked about the impact of the recent nurses' strikes and settlement which was delivering pay rises for their stirkes, Mr Callinan said the Government had changed the industrial relations landscape and "stretched" the PSSA.
He said it was untenable to maintain confidence in the agreement for another 19-20 months where some groups seemed to be getting more rewards than others by taking "a particular course of action".
Asked about the Government's decision not to impose penalties on the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation for taking strike action, in breach of the industrial peace clause of the PSSA (despite penalising ASTI secondary teachers when they took similar action), Mr Callinan said he did not see that the nurses had done anything that should warrant a penalty.
Mr Callinan added that the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is making representations to Government for ASTI members to have their losses restored.