And the priority must be for those earning less than €35,000 a year, the Civil, Public and Services Unions is insisting. Its general secretary, Eoin Ronayne, told the union’s Annual Delegate Conference that the Central Statistics Office recently reported a fall of just 0.4% in private sector average weekly earnings between 2009 and 2013.
Public sector earnings, meanwhile, had fallen by 12%, including the pension levy, over the same period. Lower paid civil servants had seen their take-home pay cut by about 18%, he said.
Mr Ronayne pointed to an agreement hammered out in Germany this week for a 3% increase in public sector wages, with at least €90 for those on lower pay — and a further 2.4% to be paid next year.
“We have done the bidding for Germany for years. Let our government now follow suit and recognise what Germany has recognised — that increases for lower paid public sector workers will stimulate the economy. If it’s OK for Merkel, then it’s also right for the pixie heads.”
Since 2008, public sector numbers were down 10%, he said, yet the demand for work carried out by public servants had increased.
There were 260,000 more people in receipt of social protection payments; 630,000 more in receipt of medical cards; 49,000 more children attending school; 13,000 more pensioners; and an increase of 350,000 living in the country.
“The reality for the public sector worker is a dramatic cut in pay and a dramatic increase in productivity — this makes no sense whatsoever. Increases in lower pay will directly re-enter the economy and help stimulate demand. “It’s about time government began preparing for pay restoration.”
CPSU president Joan Byrne told the conference in Galway the union did not want a return to the so-called Social Partnership arrangements which just suited the higher-paid during the boom years. “What we want is the Government to value and respect the contribution of its public servants. It is time to prepare for the return of normal pay bargaining for the public sector.”
Ms Byrne said one of her greatest concerns was outsourcing of public sector work. The need to outsource to private companies was only in the eyes of management, she insisted.
“If the service is capable of being provided by civil servants then why are management seeking to line the pockets of private companies instead of providing jobs and job security for our Civil Service. We cannot afford to allow our work, no matter what that work is, to be outsourced,” she said.