PRISON officers and gardaí are on average the best paid public servants according to statistics released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The figures, published yesterday, show that in December 2008 the average weekly wage of a prison officer was €1,219.39, with a garda earning €1,158.88 per week.
This compared to average weekly earnings in the education sector of €964.15 and for semi-state employees of €1,072.40.
In December 2007, average prison officers’ weekly earnings stood at €1,162.79, with gardaí at €949.99, the second figure particularly low due to the large number of new recruits during that period.
Prison Officer Association (POA) general secretary John Clinton said the “figures were distorted” and did not reflect “by a long shot” the real earnings of his members.
Mr Clinton said: “These figures are not a fair reflection of a prison officer’s earnings. We earn less than an executive officer in the civil service for a job that is seven days a week, 24 hours a day and means working over bank holidays and even Christmas day.
“Legislation means that prison officers must work a compulsory 360 additional hours a year.”
The POA stated that new recruits to the prison service start on a basic wage of €23,000 with the maximum basic salary of an officer set at €42,000.
Mr Clinton added: “The prison service, with the problem of increased prison overcrowding, is more than ever a dangerous and challenging role which cannot be compared to a Monday to Friday day job.”
Garda Representative Association (GRA) vice-president Damien McCarthy pointed out the average wage figure was skewed due to the inclusion of all earnings ranks. This meant that while new members of the force were only paid €27,000, and after 17 years of service an ordinary garda officer can still only earn a maximum of €47,000 in basic pay, the weekly average earnings figure was inflated by the inclusion of higher ranks, who earn well over €200,000.
Mr McCarthy also warned that the freeze on recruitment and downward pressure on garda pay, while the PSNI was successfully lobbying the British government for extra resources, could result in the loss of recruits north of the border.
Overall average weekly earnings in the publicsector (excluding health) rose by 3.2% in the year to December 2008.
Overall employment in the public sector was 373,300 in December 2008, an increase of 5,200 compared with December 2007.
In the year to December 2008, employment in regional bodies decreased from 38,800 to 38,500.
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