Even top level of pay won't get gardaí their own homes
We got a wake-up call when three gardaí straight out of Templemore quit and said they might as well work at Tesco. We realised that the guys employed to tackle crime are on very poor pay - so bad, that it is hard to retain them. They start on €23,750 in year one, and after 10 years this rises to around €46,000. But even after 19 years, it's not a salary that's going to allow you to buy the average house.
The days when gardaí were stereotyped as landlords in Rathmines are gone.
The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure, Robert Watt, disputed some of the figures being bandied about in relation to public servants' pay this week. He said when allowances are taken into account, gardaí can earn up to €31,000 in year one.
However, the Garda Representative Association insisted members would have to work day and night to achieve anything like this.
Central Statistics Office figures point to the gap between the average public sector and private sector worker, with the private sector faring worst.
But these figures mask the realities for many - including the lower paid among the workforce with its numerous grades, incremental payscales, allowances and premium pay. To be fair to Tesco workers, in terms of pay they have it tougher. Their starting rates may be similar to gardaí, but there the similarities end.
Their rise up the pay scale stops at about €12 an hour and most can only hope for 30 hours or less a week.
Senior Mandate official Gerry Light suggested any garda considering making the leap into retail should understand the shift patterns don't come with premiums from 7am til midnight.
But even on the upper end of the pay scales, it could be argued that gardaí and teachers might be tempted to think about another career.
The government has gone some way to better the pay of so-called 'yellow pack' workers in the public sector since wages were slashed by 10pc during the recession.
But if the unions are right, there is huge pressure among their members for more.
They have said they want the restoration of pay accelerated. It's not clear yet whether this means they want the pay rises due brought forward, new pay claims, or both.
They are also likely to hold Fianna Fáil to its election promise to repeal the Fempi legislation if it is involved in the negotiations for a programme for government - this would mean the €2bn taken through the pension levy and pay cuts would go straight back into their pockets.