Eoin Ronayne, general secretary of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU), told its annual delegate conference that the bulk of the union’s members are still waiting to get back to the terms and conditions they had in 2008, before austerity measures were introduced.
Mr Ronayne said there will be “trouble”, if unpaid hours in the civil service are not addressed in the public-service pay talks, which are due to begin in the next few weeks.
He said his members expect “real” pay rises after the discussions and warned that full pay restoration for lower income earners is an “absolute must”.
“Failure to roll back the FEMPI cuts will cause outrage,” Mr Ronayne said. “Only last week, we saw secretary generals recover pay sums our lower-paid clerical officers can only dream of. In one strike of a pen, ‘Sec Gens’ received an increase of €4,500, while the lowest of the low had to wait nearly two years for just €2,000.”
The union’s president, Ann McGee, echoed Mr Ronayne’s sentiments.
Citing the union’s submission to the Public Service Pay Commission, Ms McGee said there is an unquestionable case for those on €38,000 or below not only to get full restoration, but a real increase in pay, as well.
Ahead of the delegate conference in Killarney, the union carried out an online survey of its members.
It revealed that more than one in 10 are in receipt of social welfare-based payments to make ends meet — 4.2% are in receipt of family income supplement, while 6.5% are in receipt of a mix of payments, including one-parent family allowance, rent allowance, back-to-work dividend, etc.
“Many of these members work across the counter from clients who are also in receipt of the very same payments, despite our members being employed in what some in the media regularly describe as well-paid, secure jobs in the public service, with pensions to die for,” said Mr Ronayne.
The survey also revealed that the unpaid hours introduced during austerity have left 16% facing increased childcare costs; 21% having to lean on their family to help them cope; and a further 12.6% having to reduce their working hours to meet their childcare and family responsibilities.
“It’s not in the least surprising, therefore, that 67% of respondents want the unpaid additional hours rolled back and ultimately removed,” said Mr Ronayne.
“Alternatively, just under 34% believe they should be compensated, in additional pay, for the continuation of the hours.
“This is a stark message to the employer, in advance of the talks.”
He told the delegates they must now look to their own preparedness.
“Are we now prepared to put down the marker?” he asked.
“Pay up now or face the consequences of continuing to ignore our just claims for nine years and more. That consequence has to be the willingness of public servants to take the lead from other workers, to be prepared to take industrial action for what is right.”