Prison officers in Portlaoise and other prisons cannot wait any longer for the pay to be increased but their political boss has said any new pay deal must be 'affordable' .
Speaking ahead of the the Prison Officers Assocation Annual Delegate Conference in Galway, John Clinton, General Secretary said the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and the Government will be well aware of the focus of the various trade union annual conferences over the past weeks.
"They rightly highlighted the need for immediate pay restoration. The Prison Officers Association is no different – and we simply cannot wait any longer to have our 2008 pay levels restored”.
"Since 2008, across both public and private sectors, there has been limited wage increases, and this has contributed significantly to the recovery in the economy. The Government tells us week after week about increased tax income, reduced unemployment and other cash flow benefits for the state. Yet workers are being told and media are being briefed to the effect that ‘we can’t afford it’.
"Our Minister and all of us know that you can’t play with the wind in both halves - as the Government is now trying to do on this issue. It is simply unfair, unjust and unacceptable that our members and other workers have had to carry the burden for the failings of others for the past nine years," said Mr Clinton.
Speaking at the conference Tánaiste Fitzgerald said work is now ongoing to prepare the ground for new public pay talks. She said negotiations would not begin until the Government receives the report of the Public Service Pay Commission.
She said this report, due in Q2 of this year, would provide a key input to the talks process by providing evidence-based objective analysis on a number of key issues, including how the unwinding of the Financial Emergency legislation should proceed.
"Looking towards a new agreement, for the Government, the priorities are simple, we need an agreement that is affordable, sustainable and fair. The negotiations will be challenging but the Government is clear that we want to reach an agreement and we look forward to working with the Prison Officers Association and all trade unions and associations," she said.
She said that following an agreement in January the payment of a €1000 increase was brought forward to 1st April 2017 for all public servants who are party to that agreement and who are on salaries of up to €65,000
She said she was aware that following a significant engagement between the Irish Prison Service and the POA, sanction has been given by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the restoration of the Rent Allowance for Recruit Prison Officer.
She added that a number of reform measures have been agreed, most notably the implementation of a more robust dispute resolution regime, to include access to both the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court.