There can be no going back to pay madness
In this paper recently, Brendan Howlin, leader of the Labour Party, proposed, as a way to resolve the current industrial relations difficulties, "a new deal that could be a longer-term agreement that delivers full pay restoration for all public servants - giving everyone a clear roadmap to get back to where they were before the crisis".
There is great credit due to Mr Howlin and civil servants in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for the courage and competence they showed in rescuing the economy from the catastrophic collapse in 2007-8. But having done the hard yards, he has failed ever since the first green shoots of recovery appeared in spring 2014 in a key responsibility of a government minister and now leader of a major political party, namely the management of public expectations.
On the same day (October 28), in the 'Irish Times', Professor John Fitzgerald pointed out that back then, in 2006, following on from the impact of benchmarking, "public service pay rates were over 20pc above those for comparable private sector workers". Furthermore, even after "a dramatic and exceptionally painful cut in public service pay rates in 2009 and 2010…public sector workers were paid on average about 10pc more than their private sector counterparts".