Tuesday 23 January 2018

Row erupts over €14,000 a year wage gap between public and private sector

SIPTU president Jack O'Connor Photo: Gerry Mooney
SIPTU president Jack O'Connor Photo: Gerry Mooney

Anne-Marie Walsh

A fresh row has erupted over public servants' demands for more pay after it emerged they earn on average an extra €14,000 a year compared with private sector workers.

The latest official data reveals that State employees' average annual earnings are €47,792, compared with €33,525 in the private sector.

Earnings in the public sector - including semi-state workers - rose by 1pc from €907 to €915.92 a week in the 12 months to the end of March, compared with a 1.8pc increase in private sector earnings from €630.88 to €642.50. This represents a €273 difference in weekly wages between the two sectors.

The Central Statistics Office also revealed that gardaí enjoyed the largest rise of 5pc from €1,191 to €1,251 a week.

Gardaí are currently balloting on a pay package that would boost their total wages by another €50m, as recommended by the Labour Court to halt a series of unprecedented strikes.

The figures were revealed as the leader of the country's largest union, Siptu general president Jack O'Connor, said it was back on the "offensive" after years adopting a deeply unpopular "rearguard strategy" during the recession.

He said getting "accelerated" pay rises for public servants above what had been agreed in the Lansdowne Road deal is part of this strategy.

The union also aims to win increases of up to 4pc for private sector workers.

Siptu has authorised ballots from next Thursday unless the Government agrees to talks in the new year on 'pay restoration' for workers in the heavily unionised sector.

Mr O'Connor said pay rises were won in manufacturing, security and contract cleaning, while the union was "unequivocal and unapologetic" in supporting Luas and CIE workers.


"And even as we speak, we in this union are to the forefront of the battle to win an accelerated restoration of pay for people in the public service because the economy has improved beyond the degree that was anticipated when the current Lansdowne Road Agreement was negotiated and we do not draw distinctions in this union between people on the basis as to whether they work in the private sector or the public sector."

He rejected Government claims that the money was not available to fund increases and accused it of giving a €640m "gift" to the hospitality sector through Budget VAT concessions. He said this had not resulted in pay rises in the sector.

However, business group ISME said the "inequality" between the public and private sector has widened, and urged the Government to invest in public services before there was "any sort of giveaway" on public sector pay.

Its CEO Neil McDonnell said the difference between public and private sector pay put the public sector's demands for pay restoration into perspective.

Public sector union Impact later hit back and accused ISME of using the "usual superficial analysis" of earnings to support its claim of a widening gap.

Spokesman Niall Shanahan said the earnings data did not reflect a like-for-like comparison of pay.

"This is because the public sector is significantly smaller than the private sector, while it has a higher proportion of qualified workers within it," he said.

"Using a variety of criteria and assumptions, the CSO observes a public sector 'pay gap' ranging from 6.1pc to 18.9pc. This demonstrates that there is a much greater complexity behind the figures."

He said it was interesting to note weekly earnings in the private sector showed an increase of 1.8pc while in the public sector they increased by 1pc.

Irish Independent

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