Public sector wages have risen in the second quarter and workers in the sector now earn on average €300 per week more than their private sector counterparts.
Figures published by the CSO yesterday showed weekly private sector earnings fell 0.5% over the past four years, compared with a 2.8% increase in the public sector over the same period.
Figures for the second quarter of this year show the average weekly earnings in the private sector at €611.66 — down 1.9% compared with the first three months of 2012.
The comparable figure for public sector earnings was €918.99, up slightly on the first quarter of this year.
The figures are gross amounts before deductions such as PRSI and tax, and the pension levy.
Employers’ group Ibec said that when the public pension levy was included, “public-sector rates have come down quite a bit”.
Ibec economist Fergal O’Brien said the weekly rates were “not comparable, as you are not comparing like with like”, particularly with the need to adjust for the pension levy.
However, he said there was still an issue over paying increments in the public sector, effectively negating pay freezes while the economy was struggling.
“That is at a considerable cost at a time when public finances are under such pressure. We would have to question the soundness of that decision.”
In the three years to June, private sector average weekly wages fell €24.95, or 3.9%, compared with a fall in public-sector weekly wages of 2.9%, or €27.10.
The number of workers in the public sector fell by almost 26,000 in the year to the end of June.
Marie Sherlock of Siptu said it was “a step too far” to infer there was a widening pay gap between public and private workers.
Ms Sherlock said that, at first glance, the figure of 2.8% might seem unusual but several factors contributed to that rise, including increment payments.
“In some ways, the comparison between the public and private sector is a bit of a misnomer. There is a very wide array of jobs in the private and public sectors. You are lumping in financial workers with hotel workers, consultants with clerical workers.”
Conall MacCoille, chief economist with Davy Stockbrokers, said the figures were consistent with “our broad view that the Irish labour market is slowly stabilising, both in terms of employment and earnings”.
“A robust 2.8% rise in public sector pay in part reflects existing workers progressing through pay scales, despite measures in the Croke Park deal.
“The agreement in the National Recovery Plan for an additional 10% pay cut, exclusively for new entrants, will take time to push down on public sector pay.”
Across various sectors over the past four years, those in accommodation and food services saw the largest drop in average weekly earnings, down 5.7%, followed by construction, down 5.4%.
However, in the past quarter, both have experienced an increase.
Overall, the average weekly earnings stood at €687.84 for Q2 this year.
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