Irish unions may agree pay deal by Friday: official

DUBLIN Tue May 14, 2013 3:28pm BST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's public sector unions may agree on a new pay deal with the government by Friday, the official brokering the talks said, raising hopes that Dublin could avoid industrial action.

Public sector workers in April rejected an extension to a three-year-old pay deal, upsetting government plans to make deeper budget cuts and raising the threat of strikes in a country that has seen no major public sector unrest since its EU-IMF bailout three years ago.

"We think we have agreement in principle, subject to the normal balloting decisions of unions, of potentially 10 unions who were opposed to the agreement last week," industrial relations mediator Kieran Mulvey told RTE Radio on Tuesday.

Mulvey, who has spent the last two weeks leading talks with unions to find the basis for a deal, said "significant progress" had been made.

"There is a very, very definite deadline emerging now of probably the next 48 hours but certainly no longer than Friday."

The pay deal rejected in April, which proposed pay cuts for higher earners, longer working hours and cuts in premium payments, was aimed at saving 1 billion euros (853.1 million pounds) over three years as Ireland seeks to exit its EU-IMF bailout this year.

The government has said it needs 300 million euros of savings pencilled in for this year to meet its budget targets, with the relevant measures due to take effect from July.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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