Pay and the public service


Sir, – With the prospect of a new public sector pay deal emerging slowly on the horizon, it is unsurprising that some of the usual canards about unions and benchmarking should be deployed yet again into weary service (Letters, January 7th).

It’s worth recalling that the principle of benchmarking public sector pay against that in the private sector was originally introduced to constrain demands for pay increases from certain public sector unions in the early years of the Celtic Tiger. It was later abandoned by the Government as a matter of political expediency, justified by the need to impose some level of order on the public finances.

Employment levels in any sector of the economy can rise or fall according to demand; the collapse of the construction sector, for example, does not mean that we need fewer teachers to educate our children, or nurses to tend to the sick.

Most would agree that there is merit, in the interests of fairness, in linking pay increases and decreases in the public sector to related developments in the private sector, to a greater or lesser extent.

On this point, it’s worth noting (based on CSO data) that hourly pay rates in the private sector at the end of the third quarter of 2019, having fallen by 0.6 per cent to end-2011, were some 14.3 per cent higher than they stood 10 years previously. By contrast, average public sector pay rates remain 1.1 per cent lower than they were a decade ago, having fallen by 7.7 per cent in the meantime. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.