Howlin backs public pay increments


Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has defended the payment of increments to public servants on the grounds that there are fairer ways of controlling public pay.

Mr Howlin, speaking this morning, questioned why these payments had become the subject of public debate.

"If you pick the issue of [public service] pay, would you pick increments?" he asked.

He said that half of all increments were paid to those on clerical office grades earning an average of €22,000 per annum.

The Minister said that by stopping increments the Government would be "freezing the pay of the lowest while others on higher pay who have already received increments would remain untouched.

"In truth there are fairer ways of ensuring that we control the cost of public pay," he said.

Mr Howlin's defence contradicts the argument put forward by former Labour senior official Fergus Finlay last October that public service increments should be frozen, saving the Exchequer €300 million this year.

Mr Finlay's views have gained a considerable amount of traction since being published in his Irish Examiner column last November and have won support from political parties and prominent commentators.

Separately, Mr Howlin expressed strong support the Croke Park agreement with public sector workers, which he described as an "extraordinary instrument" in bringing about radical reform".

Mr Howlin said the country faced a very challenging year. He said that was evidenced by the health services plan published this week and the significant exit that would occur from the public service between now and the end of February.

"We have to make sure that frontline services are protected. All of that is facilitated by Croke Park."

Asked was he in favour of it being revised, he said it was an "organic instrument" and that he was in constant contact with both sides.

Mr Howlin was speaking at a joint press conference with Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, where they unveiled "Green Tender", the Government's action plan on green procurement.

Over time, suppliers of goods and services to the State will be required to ensure they reach certain environmental and sustainable standards.