Monday 27 January 2020

Expenditure chief rules out extra wage hikes for civil servants

Robert Watt. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Robert Watt. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The head of the Department of Public Expenditure has denied there is any difficulty recruiting new public servants, despite claims teachers and gardaí are living on sub-standard wages.

Robert Watt says figures, which he claims are inaccurate, have been "put around" in recent weeks, and pay rises in the public sector beyond what was agreed in the Lansdowne Road deal are not up for discussion.

"Any money that is allocated to pay is less money for improvement of services, less money for social housing and a whole variety of improvements that people are advocating for all the time," he said, adding: "People can't have it every way."

Mr Watt, who is secretary general in the department, was speaking after the chief executive of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) said the Lansdowne Road agreement, which runs until 2018, may need to be "revisited" if teachers, gardaí or nurses can't be recruited.

Kieran Mulvey said the amount paid to entry-grade levels for key public servants was "a problem that comes back to bite you after a while".

"I know that agreement lasts until September 2018 but if we can't recruit teachers, gardaí, or civil servants, or nurses because of the pay, then we need to revisit it," he said.

At their recent conference, the TUI's general secretary John MacGabhann claimed teachers who entered employment in the last four years are being treated as "galley slaves".


The TUI estimates that over the course of a 40-year career, in salary and pension entitlements, a new teacher can expect to earn up to €300,000 less than colleagues hired before 2012.

Separately, a survey last month revealed three new gardaí quit the force because they couldn't afford to live on the €23,000-a-year starting rate.

However, Mr Watt argued the figures being quoted were not reflective of the real situation.

He said entry-level teachers were not getting the same allowances as existing ones, but the salary grades are being brought in line. And he argued that within one year of leaving Templemore, the average garda salary, including allowances, rises to €31,000.

"As an employer, we are offering rates of pay which seem to be attractive to bring good quality people into the public service. Obviously, our starting salaries need to reflect the market reality," he said.

"It's particularly important to stress that for lower-paid civil servants, at the end of this process they will have achieved almost or indeed full restoration of the cuts that took place.

"Of course, for middle and higher-income public servants that isn't the case and they won't see their salaries return to those levels for some time to come. That's obviously a matter for future pay agreements and future government."

Mr Watt said the numbers employed in the public sector increased by 9,800 between January 2014 and December 2015, including 1,000 extra nurses and 3,000 teachers.

Irish Independent

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