A high-tax cost principle - Pay equality has a very real price

It is hard to think that anyone would oppose the simple, equal-pay-for-equal-work principle. It is a watertight expression of the values around fairness that inform our world. 

These are the values that minister of state Mary Mitchell O’Connor argued for earlier this week, when she said that “everyone who does the same job deserves the same pay”.

So far, so good — but yesterday Minister for Education Richard Bruton distanced himself from former school principal Ms Mitchell O’Connor’s remarks.

Official sources pointed out that the new public-sector pay deal means that teachers’ starting salaries would climb from about €35,000 to just over €37,500.

If pay parity was restored. Sources suggest starting salaries for many new teachers would rise to almost €44,000. Those figures put a price tag on the noble principle, one that, if applied across the public sector, would cost more than €210m a year.

That, in a society promised tax cuts in the next budget and where so many public services are under-funded, is not an insignificant sum.

Especially as it can be provided by doing only one of two things — raising taxes or cutting expenditure elsewhere. The belief that this is a high-tax society is widespread — as is the entirely correct belief that teachers should be paid a decent wage.

However, the idea that you can’t have one without the other is, strangely, less accepted. Politicians who recognise that linkage are routinely voted out of office.


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