FF to insist public pay equality process begins in budget

Cost of ending two-tier pay system for 60,000 hired since 2011 estimated at €200m

Teachers protesting over pay inequality. The Government has said it will enter into talks with trade unions on the two-tier pay structure for teachers, nurses and other public service personnel. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Teachers protesting over pay inequality. The Government has said it will enter into talks with trade unions on the two-tier pay structure for teachers, nurses and other public service personnel. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil has warned the Government it would support the next budget only if it boosts pay levels for 60,000 public servants appointed since 2011 on reduced salary levels.

The Government said on Friday it would enter into talks with trade unions on the highly controversial two-tier pay structure for teachers, nurses and other public service personnel but set no deadline for when pay equality would be achieved.

Fianna Fáil – whose agreement will be needed to pass the budget next October – set out clearly last night that definite progress on tackling the two-tier pay issue would be one of its key demands.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on public expenditure Dara Calleary said his party would insist on measures to begin the process of pay equalisation in the next budget, the last of the confidence-and-supply deal which underpins the Fine Gael minority government and likely to be the last before the next election.

‘Substantial start’

While accepting that full equalisation could not be achieved in one year, Mr Calleary said there must be a “substantial start in 2019”, indicating that Fianna Fáil would make it a key platform in negotiations for what is expected to be a €3.2 billion budget.

Government sources acknowledged they had conceded the point that pay equalisation must happen, but were reluctant to put a firm timeline on it. Numerous figures also said the public-sector vote had largely left Fine Gael for Fianna Fáil already.

“We are putting it on the long finger a bit, but we’ve already lost the public sector,” one source said.

Following the economic crash, the then government put in place a 10 per cent salary scale reduction for new entrants in the public service with effect from January 1st, 2011. The Haddington Road agreement in 2013 sought to address this issue by merging the new scales and existing scales .

The planned new talks follows the publication of a report on Friday by the Department of Public Expenditure which estimated it would cost a “significant” €200 million to provide pay equality for those appointed after 2011.

It said this would equate to an additional €3,301 on average for new entrants, on top of the existing pay benefits under the recent public-service pay deal.

Impact

The report found just over 60,000 people had been affected by the lower pay rates introduced for public-service personnel recruited after 2011 but that these measures had not impacted on recruitment in general.

It argued that lower-paid staff in the public service were paid considerably more than their counterparts in the private sector.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said the report had found “reduced pay points introduced during a time of crisis have not prevented very significant recruitment to our public service in the years since”.

He said there had been strong recruitment since 2011 to the estimated 237 recruitment grades across the public service, with more than 60,500 so-called new entrants taken on. He said those on the reduced terms of employment now accounted for 19 per cent of staff.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King said securing new talks marked “a significant step towards the resolution of this long-standing problem”.