Almost 1,000 civil servants paid less than living wage

More than 19,000 public service workers paid less than €25,000 a year, Minister says

Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe said records on Civil Service staff alone, as at the end of May, showed there were “just below 1,000 staff members” on less than the living wage. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe said records on Civil Service staff alone, as at the end of May, showed there were “just below 1,000 staff members” on less than the living wage. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Almost 1,000 civil servants are surviving on less than the so-called living wage, Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe has revealed.

Temporary clerical officers as well as services officers and service attendants - who staff departmental front desks, sort the post, open and close offices and do general maintenance - are among those getting paid less than €11.90 an hour.

The statutory minimum wage an employer can pay an adult worker is €9.55 an hour.

But the Living Wage Technical Group, made up of researchers and academics under the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, sets the “living wage”, which it says a worker needs to cover just the basic cost of living.

German-owned low-frills supermarkets Aldi and Lidl and cut-price Swedish furniture giant Ikea are among companies who have signed up to the living-wage rate, which is €2.35 more than the statutory minimum wage.

There is a moral onus on the Government to make sure everybody in the country has what is sufficient to live life with dignity

Dr Seán Healy, of Social Justice Ireland and one of the six members of the Living Wage Technical Group, said: “This is a shame on the Government.”

The social campaigner said government ought to be setting an example for the country and nobody working in the public service should be paid “an income below the poverty line”.

“There is a moral onus on the Government to make sure everybody in the country has what is sufficient to live life with dignity,” he added.

“It should be a basic value of government, and this is not the middle of the crash that we had – this is at a time when there is a lot of resources available.”

Asked the number of public servants coping on less than the living wage, Mr Donohoe said his Department of Finance and Public Expenditure did not have detailed figures for the entire service, which covers workers in health, education, defence, justice and local authorities.

But he indicated 6 per cent of all public-service workers – which equates to more than 19,000 staff – are on less than €25,000 a year.

The decision to increase the so-called living wage will boost wages at companies such as Aldi, Lidl and Ikea, which have signed up to the living wage campaign. Photograph: Alan Betson
German-owned low-frills supermarkets Aldi and Lidl and cut-price Swedish furniture giant Ikea are among companies who have signed up to the living-wage rate, which is €2.35 more than the statutory minimum wage. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Mr Donohoe said records on Civil Service staff alone, as at the end of May, showed there were “just below 1,000 staff members” on less than the living wage, which was increased from €11.70 to €11.90 earlier this month.

The Civil Service makes up just over a 10th of the entire public service.

Setting example

Mr Healy said: “It is logical that there is probably substantially more than 1,000 people in the public service getting paid less than €11.90 an hour, if Mr Donohoe is only counting a small proportion of the public service.

“Government should be setting a good example for the rest of the country, and all other employers. I would strongly urge government to adopt the living wage across all public services,” he added.

Thousands of Irish workers employed by the likes of Aldi, Lidl and Ikea are in line for a pay rise following the 20 cent increase in the living wage

“In other countries it is the public sector taking up the living wage more swiftly than the private sector, but in Ireland it seems to be the private sector who is leading the way.

“And the bottom line here is that anyone on less than the living wage is going without some essentials – this is why we have seen a huge growth in food parcels being delivered in Ireland.”

Mr Donohoe said any of those government-paid workers on less than the living wage “could be” getting more money “through additional premium payments in respect of shift or atypical working hours or are on salary scales that progress to the suggested living wage through incremental progression”.

Thousands of Irish workers employed by the likes of Aldi, Lidl and Ikea are in line for a pay rise following the 20 cent increase in the living wage, which was hiked to reflect the rising cost of rental accommodation in Dublin and other urban areas.

The cost of food, clothing, health insurance and transport all fell this year while changes to the universal social charge also boosted wages, according to the technical group, but these savings were wiped out by rising rents.