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Today’s CSO figures on earnings and labour costs show once again, the difference between public and private sector earnings.  45% above all average private wages and a massive 69% above average wages in a small business.

Here are the bald facts:

Public sector                                                 €905
All Private sector                                          €626
Business with less than 50 employees     €537

Examining the difference in wage rates does not even begin to tell you the whole story here. Public sector employees also enjoy better pension benefits, flexible hours, extra training and extra holidays; not to mention the perks that would make your eyes water. It is unthinkable that private sector taxes fund this public sector largesse.

However when we draw attention to these differences the immediate response from trade unions and government spokespersons is that we are not comparing like with like. Public servants are better qualified and have longer service. They just stop short of telling us that they have longer arms, bigger bicycles and nicer hair!!

And all of these add up to a premium of 69%!!

Two parallel worlds have been allowed to develop, one consisting of an increasingly affluent, sheltered and costly public sector, first to the trough and the other consisting of a private sector being squeezed by productivity challenges, competitiveness issues and the globalisation process. The political interference in public sector pay-setting must be removed. An independent commission would ensure fairness, balance and equity.

It is high time that the CSO, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the ESRI and other agencies, produced all the facts that would permit indisputable comparisons between Irish public and private sectors and between Ireland and its peers across the OECD. Comparisons that exclude pensions, perks, holidays and other entitlements are meaningless.

We in ISME have been to the fore in pointing out the anomalies and differentials and we have called again and again for an independent Public Sector Pay Commission to determine all future pay arrangements across the public sector. As long as elected politicians are responsible for public sector pay setting they will pander to that sector to get their votes and retain power.

A strong public sector is an important and essential component of any modern economy, but it has to be efficient, cost effective and focused on delivering value for money. It’s clear that the task of achieving this cannot be left to politicians who allowed two spurious Benchmarking exercises create massive anomalies. This is why the documentation that purported to justify the pay increases was destroyed as it would not bear public scrutiny.

The top three asks are:

  • An international led commission to review public sector wages, conditions, perks and increments.
  • Improved efficiencies within the public sector to bring it to world class status.
  • Scrap the overly-restrictive rules on out-sourcing in the public service.

Will we get it? Not from the current crop of politicians.

ISME will continue to lobby for an independent commission. Make sure to ask for it when the politicians come calling, soon.