The country's largest public service union has demanded more influence over government policy and has dismissed the current consultative arrangements with the government  as a "box-ticking exercise".

Speaking at the Forsa Services and Enterprises Division conference in Sligo, Senior General Secretary Designate Kevin Callinan said the Labour Employer Economic Forum established some years ago after the collapse of social partnership was welcome.

However, he said there was need for what he called "effective social dialogue" to be built into that, so that unions would not just be receiving information about what the government had already decided in relation to policy matters, but would have a "real opportunity to influence events".

He said the Labour Employer Economic Forum did not seem to provide that kind of opportunity, describing it as a process that was more about "ticking the box".

He said the relatively poor rate of progress on issues like housing, pensions and childcare demonstrated the importance of making the exercise more dynamic.

As the European elections get underway, he warned that if trade unions across the EU were not given a more meaningful role in that kind of process, and there were no return to the vision of a social Europe, albeit in a 2019 context, there would be a risk of further fragmentation.

He said they heard meaningful words from people like Jean Claude Juncker but that needed to be converted into something more meaningful than a speech every four years to the European Trade Union Confederation days before the European elections.

Mr. Callinan confirmed that "exploratory" talks between public service unions and the government regarding issues including a potential mid-term review of the PSSA  following the nurses and midwives pay deal were continuing, but cautioned they were certainly not at a conclusive point.

He also suggested that pay growth in the private sector was exceeding that in the public sector and attributed this in part to increased working time in parts of the public service.