25 September 2023

IRELAND: Call to scrap unpaid working hours

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Ireland’s largest Public Service union, Fórsa will push for a shorter working week, abolishing the extra unpaid hours agreed in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis.

The move by Fórsa comes amid growing Government concerns that rising costs in the public sector could damage the country’s financial recovery.

It estimates this latest move could cost more than €600 million (A$970 million).

Under a previous pay agreement, PS staff agreed to work a longer week to avoid further pay cuts.

The amount of extra time varied from sector to sector, but in most cases was between two and 2.5 hours a week.

The Government’s position has traditionally been that while pay cuts introduced during the austerity years were temporary, productivity measures, such as the extra hours introduced at the same time, were permanent.

Nonetheless, the move by Fórsa will put further pressure on the Government, which is already facing significant pay demands from various groups across the Public Service in the wake of its settlement with nurses after their recent strike.

Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe warned his Cabinet colleagues before Easter about the need to control spending.

He has scheduled a series of bilateral meetings with Ministers in an attempt to rein in expenditure and hold Departments to their budgets.

The potential costs of shortening the working week for PS staff have alarmed officials.

However, General Secretary of Fórsa, Kevin Callinan said the longer hours affected mainly those on low and middle incomes and, in particular, women.

He said continuing with this requirement for longer hours without additional pay was “not fair”.

Mr Callinan said the increased working hours were agreed when the country was experiencing “torrid times”, which was no longer the case.

Dublin, 7 May 2019

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