Public servants are unlikely to receive any pay rises in 2021, though the Government is not planning a return to the FEMPI austerity measures introduced during the financial crisis, An Garda Síochána representative bodies were told today.

At a remote meeting this morning, the Government side re-confirmed that 340,000 government employees will receive a scheduled 2% pay increase on 1 October next due under the current Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), and that increments would not be affected if the envisaged two-year public service agreement is eventually finalised.

The meeting, including representatives of all garda grades, garda management and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (which oversees public service pay), took place as formal negotiations on a successor to the PSSA are due to get under way in the coming weeks.

The current three-year PSSA expires on 31 December - and tentative contacts are now under way between the Government and the various unions and associations representing around 340,000 civil and public servants.

A Garda Representative Association briefing document issued to members after the meeting states: "It is foreseen that the successor to the PSSA will not be as long as the previous three-year agreements, however it appears a pay pause for 2021 and no scope for pay awards may form part of the negotiations."

This statement comes in the context of the increased expenditure burdens on the state at present for social welfare, wage subsidies, business supports, and health measures to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

The GRA briefing document also states: "It was clarified that there is no plan to return to the FEMPI measures of 2009/10 and pay scale increments will not be frozen, stretched out or extended."

The 2% increase due on 1 October for 340,000 public servants is the final tranche of restoration of pay cuts implemented under austerity.

The GRA tells members that the delegations were told no formal discussions had taken place with any sector to date - and that all sectors were being briefed similarly.

"It is envisaged that there will be sectoral talks where a number of outstanding issues will be discussed and that national talks will resume after that," the briefing document states.

GRA General Secretary Pat Ennis described the meeting as a "conditioning exercise" - not just for public sector workers but for all workers and the whole country.

He welcomed the confirmation that the 2% pay restoration would be honoured, and that there would be no "messing" with increments.

"We would expect that the sectoral element of the talks will be crucial in respect of garda pay," he concluded.

Over the lifetime of the PSSA, the public service pay bill rose by almost 20% from €16.5bn in 2017 to €19.7bn in 2020. However, €2.4bn of that €3.2bn increase was due to additional recruitment. 

Briefing documents prepared for the incoming Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath forecast that the public service pay bill will rise by €330m in 2021 - excluding the cost of any potential successor to the PSSA.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform declined to comment at this time.