Health and social care staff belonging to the largest public service union Fórsa are to pursue knock-on pay rises in the wake of the recent increases awarded to nurses and midwives.

Delegates at the union's Health and Welfare Division conference in Sligo have also mandated their union to campaign for the abolition of the additional unpaid hours imposed on public servants during the economic crisis.

Following three days of strike action earlier this year, members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation secured a new more lucrative pay scale and a broader entitlement to allowances, aimed at addressing staff shortages.

The package is estimated to cost up to €50m over 2019 and 2020 - or significantly more if cost-offsetting productivity is not secured.

Delegates heard that in the midst of the current Public Service Stability Agreement, the INMO had pursued their own agreement and won concessions from the Government - and they have now instructed Fórsa to secure a similar benefit for members.

When the INMO settlement was announced, many industrial observers expressed fears that it could trigger knock-on claims, resulting in a further hike in the public sector pay bill, and exceeding the budgetary allocation previously set by the Government.

Today delegates also mandated Fórsa to seek the abolition of the additional working hours imposed during the economic crisis under the Haddington Road Agreement.

Delegate Michael Harhen from South Tipperary said the additional hours had been introduced six years ago as a temporary measure at the height of the crisis, but that it was grossly unfair that lower and middle income earners were continuing to bear the brunt of those hours, which he claimed were the equivalent to a 6% pay cut.

He warned that the issue was not going away - and that the Government must accept that the free ride on the back of Fórsa's members was over.

Cork delegate Don Meskil said that the 2013 increase in the working week from 35 to 37 hours had resulted in members working nearly three weeks per year extra for the same pay.

He said this meant that since 2013, members had worked an extra 18 weeks for no extra remuneration.

He noted that some members also worked in hospitals, where they were expected to work weekends, bank holidays and night duty - but that because their hourly rate of pay had effectively been reduced, their income from premium payments had also been reduced - which was in effect a double pay cut.

Fórsa National Secretary Eamonn Donnelly said it was going to be difficult to achieve the abolition of the additional unpaid hours - particularly in the health sector.

He cited the example of the nursing community which had said it had a recruitment and retention problem - but warned that if 60,000 nursing hours were taken out of the system each week, it would place extraordinary demands on the health service.

He said it would be a difficult circle to square - but that at the same time, you had to respect the fact that when the country was going backwards in the biggest recession in the country, there was a "disproportionate brunt" being carried by some Fórsa members.

He said it was only to be expected that they would love to have that reversed - but that issues like working hours would be addressed on a cross-sectoral basis.

On potential knock-on pay rises, Mr Donnelly stressed that Fórsa would operate under the current Public Service Stability Agreement.