Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has said it would cost €2.2bn a year to eliminate lower pay rates for new public servants.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Donohoe was responding to questions from members of the People Before Profit/Anti Austerity Alliance group, who called on him to end the “pay apartheid” in the public sector.
Mr Donohoe said that while he recognised the contribution made by lower-paid workers, but he was not in a position to eliminate the two-tier pay system as demanded.
“The immediate repeal of all of the measures taken across that phase of our emergency measures would cost €2.2bn per year. I cannot reconcile that figure with the need to fund all of the other public services that the House wants me to deliver,” he said.
Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett criticised Mr Donohoe for depriving new public entrants of €250,000 in salaries over the lifetime of their careers on foot of the cuts.
“There is nothing in the Lansdowne Road agreement that commits to doing anything about that pay apartheid. What is the minister going to do?,” he said.
“How can he justify the sort of pay apartheid that will mean somebody who happens to come in after 2012 will, over the course of 40 years of a working life, earn €250,000 less than somebody who happens to come in before that?”
Mr Donohoe also came under fire for extending the financial emergency legislation (FEMPI) which allowed the previous government to cut the pay of public servants. Mr Boyd Barrett asked the minister how he can continue to apply emergency legislation when Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the recovery has taken hold.
“The minister has not answered the key question: is there still an emergency? If there is not an emer- gency how can he possibly justify continuing to punish these workers,” said Mr Boyd Barrett.
“Even at the end of the Lansdowne Road Agreement process they will be earning less than they were earning in 2009. Many of the conditions they lost are not even mentioned in the Lansdowne Road Agreement.”
In response, Mr Donohoe said €844m will be spent up to 2018 to reverse pay reductions for state workers. He said a similar programme of reductions to public service pension restorations in 2018 will cost €90m.
Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association announced that its 10,500 members are withdrawing co-operation with the Department of Justice’s “transformation agenda” as part of its dispute over pay.
The move is a response to the Government’s imposition of a freeze on increments because the GRA has rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement on public sector pay.
However, GRA president Ciarán O’Neill said the withdrawal of co-operation would not have a major impact on the public.
The Government has appointed industrial relations specialist and former Labour Court chairman John Horgan to chair the stalled review of garda pay and industrial relations.
Meanwhile, issues involving pay arrangements for newly qualified teachers are to be examined after agreement between officials from two government departments and the two teacher unions inside the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Mr Donohoe told the Dáil that there was agreement yesterday to “fully scope out the issues”.
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