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Public unions are misleading staff

PUBLIC sector union leaders are misleading their members if they think industrial action (either strikes or a bizarrely titled "work-to-rule") can force the Government to reverse the pay cuts announced in December's Budget.

Even with the modest improvement in the public finances at the end of the year, the fact that the Exchequer deficit was 11.4pc of GDP for 2009 means there is no room for manoeuvre.

The inflation figures published last week indicate the CPI is now back at the level it was in February 2007.

Since then public sector employees have received three pay increases under the 'Towards 2016' plan (not including increments to which they may be entitled) totalling 8pc.

The combined impact of the pensions levy and the recent pay cut is 14pc for a public sector worker on a median salary. This equates to a real reduction in gross income of 6pc over three years.

Many lower-paid public sector workers will have seen their gross incomes fall by less than this amount.

While no one wants to see living standards reduced, public sector employees are in a considerably better position than tens of thousands of private sector workers.

The sacrifice that is being asked of them is undoubtedly harsh but not unreasonable in the circumstances.

Kevin Barrett
Dublin 8

Irish Independent