Pay down 4pc but worse is to come, say employers
EMPLOYERS last night warned of further drops in workers' income as official figures revealed that pay was down by almost 4pc in the space of a year.
Average weekly earnings fell by 3.8pc from the first quarter last year to the same period this year. This was due to a drop in average hourly pay and number of hours worked, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The weekly earnings of the lowest paid workers in the economy -- clerical, sales and service staff -- fell by 5.9pc in the year to the first quarter of 2010.
Only in two out of 13 sectors did average weekly earnings rise.
Topping the table were weekly earnings of €1,013.59 in the financial, insurance and real estate sector -- up 1pc on the previous year.
Meanwhile, employees in professional, scientific and technical jobs earned an average €856.30 a week, up 3.1pc.
Trade union Mandate said the latest earnings figures showed that workers on lower incomes were being squeezed the hardest by the recession.
"Ironically, while the incomes of the lowest paid workers are falling lower than others within the economy, the pressure they are experiencing from rising prices is the greatest," John Douglas, union general secretary said.
Average weekly earnings for such staff were now less than €470 per week and worked out at around €24,000 per year, he added.
Employers' group ISME said the latest figures came as no surprise and warned that unless there was an economic upturn the trend would continue.
Smaller companies were finding the current environment extremely difficult and had been forced to reduce labour costs and cut staff numbers and hours of employment, ISME's Jim Curran said.
The latest figures show that average weekly earnings were €682.91 in the first quarter of the year, a drop of more than €26 on the €709.55 weekly figure a year earlier. Across the economic sectors there were falls in average weekly pay in 11 of the 13 sectors covered.
The largest decreases were in education, with average weekly earnings of €809.24 (-9.1pc), and transport and storage with €680.15 (-7.3pc).
Earnings of clerical, sale and service employees fell by almost 6pc compared to a much lower drop for managers, professionals and associated professionals (3.9pc) and production, transport, craft and other manual workers (3.5pc).
The figures also showed that weekly earnings in the public sector fell further (5.5pc) than in the private sector (2.8pc).
According to the CSO, the figures reflect the decreases in public sector pay rates announced in the December Budget. However, earnings in the public sector were calculated before the pension levy was introduced in March 2009.
The latest figures follow news that soaring mortgage repayments rates have driven up the cost of living for the first time in nearly two years.
And they come as artists prepare to take to the streets next week in protest over the collapse in their income.
Artists will take their protest to the Department of Arts, Tourism and Culture on Thursday to highlight their plight.
"It's hard to make a living as an artist in the best of times," said Des Courtney, group secretary of Irish Actors Equity. "But the recession and cuts in the arts are making things near to impossible for many artists."