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Monday 1 May 2017

Private wage rates 'not an excuse to drag down public servants pay' - union chief

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Anne Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

A union chief has warned that private sector workers' low wages are "not an excuse to drag down" public sector pay.

Deputy General Secretary of the Civil, Public and Services Union, Derek Mullen, said a new body set up to advise the government on its pay policy should avoid comparisons with employers who offer poor pay and conditions in the private sector.

Speaking at a civil service conference this morning, he also denied that lower paid civil servants enjoyed "gilt-edged" pensions and warned critics to "get off our backs".

"Low levels of pay in the private sector are unacceptable and are not an excuse to drag public service wages down, as Davy Stockbrokers called for recently," he said. "Shame on them. Shame on them."

He said the Public Service Pay Commission is not charged with a lowest common denominator exercise.

"Fair comparison or no comparison at all," he said.

"Private sector employers will try and justify dreadful pay and conditions as necessary to create and protect jobs, but at what price, I ask," he said.

"Should we just accept that this is a low wage economy with ever increasing gaps in wealth and growing differentials in wages between workers and executives, particularly those at the most senior levels? No we should not."

He said members make a 6.5pc pension contribution and have their pensions integrated with the state pension. With full service after 40 years, they can expect a pension of €18,000, €12,000 of which is their state pension.

"A grand total of €6,000 top up to the state pension," he said.

"In other words, nothing to see here, get off our backs. There are no gilt-edged pensions for CPSU members."

He said once again dreadful pension entitlements in the private sector are being used to justify cuts in the public service.

"It is an argument proffered to try and split public and private sector workers and take the focus off the race to the bottom that we are witnessing everywhere," he said.

Mr Mullen said the pay scale for clerical officers is the longest in the civil service and there was no reason why it should take 20 years for a  clerical officer to move from a very low starting wage to a maximum of €37,000.  He said these grades were predominantly women and it was discriminatory.

In contrast, he said predominantly male grades "higher up the food chain" have much shorter pay scales.

He said the focus of pay restoration should be on lower paid grades.

Mr Mullen criticised the "usual commentators" for demonising public servants and said they care about service delivery more than anyone else.

He described the award of a managers' training contract to IBEC on discipline and performance in the civil service as a "travesty".

The union official also said the government's move to shared services in the public service has not been a positive experience. "Staff HR and payroll will never be privatised while we have breath in our bodies," he warrned.

Mr Mullen noted that there will be 500 new civilian posts in the garda force this year, with 140 currently being filled. He said it is expected their number will double to 4,000 by 2021 under a modernisation plan.

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