Government hopes ending two-tier pay system will prevent strikes

Donohoe warns benefits will apply only to groups that stay within public service accord

 

The Government will hope proposals for improving pay for recent public service entrants will quell a long-running controversy and persuade groups such as nurses they can secure extra pay without going on strike.

While the two-tier pay system dates back to the economic crisis in 2010/11, it was only since the State began to recruit again recently in large numbers that the issue began to escalate .

A Department of Public Expenditure report earlier this year found 60,000 public service staff were on lower pay than longer serving colleagues.

Teachers are particularly affected by two-tier pay, largely because they were not subject to the same recruitment moratorium as other groups .

Teacher unions warned of strikes if an end to the two-tier pay gap was not agreed by autumn.

The Government proposals seek to allow staff recruited since 2011 to catch up with pay of longer serving personnel by jumping two increments .

Already the teaching unions ASTI and TUI have argued the measures do not go far enough.

The ASTI says allowances which were also cut for new entrant teachers in 2011 are not to be re-introduced. While teacher unions are expected to continue to campaign for full pay equality, it remains to be seen whether they will embark on industrial action.

Nurses

Of more immediate concern to the Government will be the 40,000 nurses in the public health system.

Calls by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) for across-the-board increases to alleviate recruitment and retention difficulties were rejected by the Public Service Pay Commission. It did recommend increases in allowances for nurses in some specialties.

The Government will also argue that about 10,000 nurses could benefit from the entrant pay initiative. While some nurses could benefit on the double from both plans, others may not get anything extra at all.

The nurses’ organisation will decide its next steps at its special conference on Wednesday, and industrial action has not been ruled out.

The Irish Medical Organisation is also consulting its members about the potential for industrial action in pursuit of a process to deal with a two-tier remuneration system for senior doctors where it says a €50,000 a year pay differential will soon exist.

While the Government will highlight the positive, there is a stick in the background.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe repeatedly said on Monday that the proposals would apply only to groups within the public service agreement – a clear message that if groups engaged in industrial action, their members would lose out on the benefits .