Thursday, 12 December 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. B. Ahern: asked the Minister for the Public Service if he will outline the reported offer to civil servants at the Civil Service General Council on 27 November 1985 for the 25th round, taking that the offer is a total U-turn by him on his 14 August statement; and if he will inform the House of the realistic offer which he intends to make to civil servants in 1986.
Mr. B. Ahern: asked the Minister for the Public Service if, in view of the fact that the main trade union leaders have given a commitment to negotiate changes in the conciliation and arbitration scheme once an arbitrator is re-appointed, it is his intention to reappoint the arbitrator and, if not the reason.
Minister for the Public Service (Mr. Boland): I propose to answer Questions Nos. 32 and 34 together. Following the meeting of the Civil Service General Council on 27 November at which an offer on the 25th round and related pay issues was made to civil servants, both sides agreed to issue a joint statement the terms of which I shall now read to the House:
Government representatives met Civil Service unions on 27 November under the civil service conciliation and arbitration Scheme to reply to their 25th round pay claim. The existing 24th round for this group expires on 31 December 1985.
(1) an agreement being reached between the two sides in relation to the phasing of outstanding arbitration findings, the processing under the scheme of claims for special increases already served and the treatment, during the period of any agreement, of claims for special increases not yet served; and
In the interest of dealing quickly with the claim the Government's representatives suggested to the unions that a negotiating sub-committee be set up immediately. The staff side said they would consider the offer and report back with their response.
As will be clear from my reply to the Deputy in respect of a similar question from him on 12 November, I do not accept that the terms of the Government's offer as outlined above can in any way be regarded as a U-turn given the terms of the Government's statement on pay of 14 August last.
As the questions cover matters which are the subject of negotiation with the staff, the Deputy will appreciate that any further developments on the 25th round and on any of the other matters referred to in the joint statement of 27 November must depend on the response from the  staff side. I do not intend to, and it would not be proper for me to attempt to, conduct the negotiations in this House. In view of the last sentence of the joint statement I do not intend to make any further statement on the negotiations.
Mr. B. Ahern: The Government statement of August which created the difficulty which has since beset the public service was that the increase for 1986 would be zero. Any fair-minded person with any degree of intelligence would see that any kind of an increase is a change from that position. The Minister has now begun negotiations on the 25th round, the special grade increases and the reappointment of the arbitrator. Is he saying that these three items are on the table and will have to be resolved in one package? Is that the Minister's negotiation stance? I am not asking him to give any information of a confidential nature between him and the public service unions. Are the three items bound together? Is he saying that an agreement on one cannot be reached without agreement on all three?
Mr. Boland: In my initial reply I read the text of the agreed statement with the Civil Service unions following the meeting with them on 27 November. The three matters from the basis of the Government's offer are clearly outlined in that statement.
Mr. B. Ahern: Could I ask the Minister the position regarding the public service arbitrator? The Minister recently appeared to separate the arbitration scheme from the negotiating stance. There is a Civil Service and teachers' arbitration scheme and there is also an arbitration scheme for local government and health employees, which is slightly different. By agreeing to meet and negotiate with one body, is he making some distinction and is he prepared to appoint the arbitrator as part of the negotiations?
Mr. Boland: Is has always been my attitude that I was more than anxious to meet collectively or individually with  public service unions or groups of unions who were prepared to discuss a package which would lead to harmony in industrial relations in the public service during 1986 and beyond. In that context I must say — as I did on 12 November in answer to a previous question by the Deputy — that the Deputy does not seem to have read carefully the Government's pay guidelines of 14 August last. Those guidelines are materially different from what he has represented them to be and are not substantially different from guidelines issued in relation to previous general pay rounds. I hope to meet one of the groups to whom the Deputy referred immediately after Question Time today and, in view of the importance of these discussions and others which I hope it will be possible to have with public service groups in the time immediately ahead, I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to go into what are more importantly in the context of negotiations, negotiating matters. It would be inopportune if I attempted to conduct those negotiations which should properly be negotiated with the union representatives instead of with Deputy Ahern across the floor of the House.
Mr. B. Ahern: I am sure the Minister appreciates that I am only trying to find out what he is seeking to do because this has caused widespread problems in the public service over the last three months. Perhaps it would be helpful to have a debate in the House. Does the item which the Minister seeks to amend in the Civil Service conciliation and arbitration scheme and the teachers' scheme mean that the proposals and the findings of the arbitration scheme will have to come before this House although the local government scheme does not have to be brought before the House as it is a matter for the Minister? Will the amendment which the Minister seeks to achieve in the Civil Service conciliation and arbitration board prior to his reappointing the arbitrator affect matters coming before the House? Is that the nub of the non-reappointment of the arbitrator?
Mr. Boland: The Deputy cannot put that interpretation on the desire of the Government as they are anxious that there should be one agreed scheme to cover the public service and in that context any anomalies might be eliminated so that there would be a greater degree of order in the machinery for pay determination. I appreciate that the Deputy is merely trying to be helpful.
An Ceann Comhairle: That concludes Question Time and questions put down for oral answer which have not been reached will now go for written reply. Deputy De Rossa has been given permission to ask a Private Notice Question to the Minister for Labour.
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