Poll: Should public-sector pay increases be benchmarked against private-sector wages?

Business lobby groups have said unions’ pay claims are “at odds with the current economic reality”.

By Conor McMahon Reporter, Fora

THE YEAR OF industrial unrest marches on. This week kicked off with widespread school closures across the country as members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland withdrew from supervisory and substitution duties.

Meanwhile, gardaí last week called off unprecedented strike action at the 11th hour after the Labour Court proposed a €40 million deal which Garda union members will ballot today.

The multimillion-euro package falls outside the €290 million pay increase earmarked for 2017, which has led other public sector representatives to call for a renegotiation of their own deals.

‘At odds’

Unsurprisingly, business lobby groups have been critical of pay claims made in the public sector, arguing that expectations are not in line with those in the private sector.

Ibec said demands from public service workers are “at odds with the current economic reality and what is reasonably affordable”.

The group’s president, Anne Heraty, recently told Fora that “if wages in one sector far outpace wages in another, there is always an impact”.

Public sector premiums jumped by almost 22% during the boom years, according to research by the ESRI. When the crash came, take-home pay was significantly slashed.

That said, reductions for public sector earners were not nearly as severe as those in the private sector: the same research found public-sector earners on lower incomes were still paid over 20% more than workers in similar roles in the private sector.

With that mind, we’re asking Fora readers: Should public-sector pay increases be benchmarked against private-sector wages?