Up to 60,000 recent public service hires could be in line for big pay increase

Workers hired since 2011 may receive €3,300 increase on average

Tens of thousands of staff who entered the public service in recent years on lower pay rates appear likely to receive special increases to allow them to catch up with longer-serving colleagues on foot of new talks between the Government and unions.

The Government and public service unions are to meet on Friday to discuss ending the highly controversial two-tier pay system which has seen nearly 60,000 teachers, nurses, civil servants and others recruited since January 2011 receive less pay than those in place before that date.

Highly-placed sources said a key element of the talks would be proposals to effectively allow newer entrant staff to “jump” incremental points on their pay scales. This would effectively remove the additional two lower points which were added to the bottom of the scales for newer entrants.

The abolition of the two-tier pay system could be worth €3,300 on average to those taken on after 2011.

However, any such move could cost the Government about €200 million, a report drawn up by the Department of Public Expenditure last March estimated.

A key issue to be determined in the forthcoming talks would be how and over what time the additional points added to the pay scales would be removed. Should, for example, this issue be addressed in one go in 2019 or phased in over a longer period.

There are also technical complexities as different grades of staff in the public service have incremental scales of different lengths – teachers, for example, have more than 20 points on their pay scale.

Current deal

The Government’s position has been that while it was prepared to carry out a review of the two-tier pay system under the terms of the most recent public service agreement, actually addressing the issue would have to wait until after the end of 2020 when the current deal expires.

However, last Friday public service unions said they wanted the Government to bring forward to next year the provision of increased pay for newer entrants to the public service. Tom Geraghty, joint general secretary of Fórsa, the country's largest public service union, said the public service staff concerned could not wait until the agreement expired at the end of 2020 "to resolve something so fundamentally unfair".

About 60,000 staff recruited since 2011 – or about 19 per cent of the total public service workforce – are impacted by the two-tier pay system.

Removing the additional points on the pay scales for newer entrants would not totally end the two-tier remuneration system. It would not address allowances which were separately removed or reduced for new entrants during the austerity era.

Meanwhile, top level management in the Defence Forces believe that an independent review board should be established to examine the totality of remuneration on offer to military personnel, including basic pay and allowances.

It is understood to have suggested that military service allowances paid to all personnel should be increased, weekend security duty allowances should be restored and special payments reintroduced to retain key staff such as pilots, air traffic controllers, bomb disposal experts and engineers.

Retention difficulties

This recommendation is expected to be at the heart of a submission prepared by the Defence Forces for the Public Service Pay Commission, which is looking at recruitment and retention difficulties in keys parts of the State sector.

It is understood that management of the forces has concluded that the current trend of premature voluntary retirements is not sustainable, and that the rate of staff leaving will not be alleviated solely through the current high rates of recruitment.

It is understood that military management has estimated that “based on current premature voluntary retirement rates and assuming the maintenance of the current rate of recruitment of 800 personnel per year, the official establishment strength of the Defence Forces of 9,500 would not be reached until 2031.”