Unions have met with Government officials for exploratory talks on public sector pay.

Members of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Public Services Committee met with senior officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform this afternoon.

The meeting was organised after the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, asked his officials to engage with unions after they triggered a review clause in the current public sector agreement, 'Building Momentum'.

Under the existing deal, public sector workers received a 1% pay increase last year, with a further 1% due in October but ICTU triggered the review clause in light of soaring inflation.

'Change in underlying economic assumptions'

In an update to members this evening, ICTU President, Kevin Callinan, who is also General Secretary of Fórsa, said that the Government acknowledged that there had been a change in the underlying economic assumptions that informed the negotiations and acceptance of the Building Momentum agreement.

"They accepted that there was an expectation that an adjustment in the pay terms of Building Momentum, in 2022, would be discussed as part of this engagement, although this exploratory meeting did not go into detail about what this might amount to," Mr Callinan said.

"Against the background of uncertainty caused by the international situation and other factors, the DPER officials also said that, in advance of its October 2022 budget announcement, the Government was keen to establish some certainty on public service pay movement in 2023, and that they were ready to engage with us on this over the coming weeks," he added.

According to Mr Callinan, the department officials said they would reflect and consult on the question of whether the Government would seek to revisit and/or add to the commitments in Building Momentum.

'WRC assistance might be helpful'

The parties agreed that the assistance of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) might be helpful, and it was agreed that the WRC should be contacted to see if it could facilitate a further meeting between ICTU and DPER officials early in the week beginning 23 May.

Last week, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said he had directed his officials to arrange to enter into talks in relation to an agreed way forward on public service pay issues.

"These will be difficult discussions against a very challenging backdrop," Mr McGrath said on Friday.

"The discussions must be cognisant of the multiple challenges that the country is currently facing including the impact of rising inflation and the conflict in the Ukraine."

"However, I believe that there is scope for all parties to engage constructively on a way forward that is reasonable and fair to both public servants and taxpayers generally," he added.