• State plans to retain lower pay rates for 50,000 newest teachers, nurses and gardaí • Lower pay rates to cost young teachers €75,000 over the course of their career
The government is determined to keep a two-tier pay system in place in a new public sector pay deal, in a move that will amplify the division between younger and older public sector workers.
It will be a major flashpoint for at least 50,000 teachers, nurses, gardaí and other public servants who have been recruited on lower pay rates over the past six years.
They had expected that the talks on the new pay deal, starting next week, would bring them into line with their older colleagues.
But it is understood that the government’s firm position is that it will not pay “over the odds” for new recruits when there are no problems with recruiting teachers, gardaí, civil servants and council workers.
The key argument made by unions against lower pay rates for newer public sector workers was that it was affecting recruitment. Government sources, however, have pointed to the findings of the Public Sector Pay Commission, which found there was “no evidence” that the reduced pay rates for new entrants were affecting recruitment to the public service in general.
Official figures supplied to the commission show that there were:
● Around 43,000 applications for around 4,000 civil service posts in the most recent recruitment round in 2015;
● Around 5,000 applications for 650 new positions in the Garda Síochána last year, and
● Around 1,200 applications for 112 senior executive jobs in councils this year.
Unions privately acknowledge that their case for pay equality has not been helped by the findings of the pay commission report. Pay rates were cut by 10 per cent for teachers, nurses, gardaí and other public servants who joined after January 2011.
Although some of the cuts have been reversed, they are still two years behind on the salary scales. Teaching unions have estimated that the current lower pay rates for new teachers will cost them €75,000 over the course of their career.
Due to the limited money available for pay rises, any move towards pay equalisation for younger public servants will reduce the potential for pay rises for older public servants.
Unions believe, however, that it may be possible to increase pay for the 50,000 public servants who joined after 2013. They are on an average career pension that is far less valuable than the pensions for the other 85 per cent of public servants who joined before 2013. Unions believe that giving the post-2013 workers a higher reduction on their pension levy than longer-serving public servants would be a way of increasing their pay.
“You could design something around that,” a union source said.
Pay equality was the issue that ASTI campaigned on when it went on strike for three days last year. But getting rid of reduced pay rates for teachers and other education staff would cost €85 million per year and make it more expensive to recruit new teachers. There are similar reduced pay rates in place right across the public sector.
However, the public service pay commission did acknowledge there are shortages of nurses in mental health services and emergency departments. The HSE is also unable to recruit enough hospital consultants, radiographers and psychologists.
Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary said that consideration should be given to higher pay in areas of the health service struggling to get recruits.
“The inability to fill certain positions is directly contributing to the major problems with waiting lists,” he said.
By Michael Brennan, Sunday Business Post,