Today’s (25th August ’14) CSO figures on earnings and labour costs confirm beyond reasonable doubt that public sector pay remains totally out of line with the private unsheltered sector, with a difference of 48%, (€919 – €622). Previous European data shows Irish public sector average pay still higher than most other countries.
It is perverse in the extreme to hear Ministers, who should know better, talk about equality and fairness and restoring public sector wage cuts, while we haven’t even balanced the books, we borrow to pay way more than other countries for our public servants and exorbitantly more than the private sector.
Our State is one of the most indebted in the world and we continue to pay ‘tiger wages’ to our public sector. This Government has wasted the opportunity presented by the events leading up to the bail-out to seriously address the pay and conditions of State employees and let a good crisis go to waste. If that isn’t bad enough, the Minister for Reform, Brendan Howlin, is going to reverse the pay cuts.
This year we will be spending upwards of €17 billion on public sector pay and pensions, representing a third of all spending. Most of this we will be borrowing, while we have committed to reducing our debt levels, we are going to increase public sector wages. All of this has to be paid for by the citizen, through taxes. It is time for this Government to stand up and show some guts, or must we allow them to carry on the myth of governing, while public sector statutory entitlement to taxpayers’ money is allowed to continue.
Two parallel worlds cannot be allowed develop, one consisting of a growing and increasingly affluent, sheltered and costly public sector, and the other consisting of a private sector being squeezed by productivity challenges, competitiveness issues and the globalisation process. Unless the public sector is brought into line, including the pay element, the rest of the economy will be left to pick up the pieces through further increases in taxation and even higher borrowing.