New workers must be priority - Demands on public sector pay

THE news that around 6,000 ESB staff will be offered pay increases of 5.5% over two years, and a lump sum of €2,750, will add to the momentum building up around demands for public sector and semi-state pay rises.

Teacher and garda conferences have already contributed to increasing that pressure. The Luas dispute, which grows ever more fraught, is, in theory, a private sector difficulty but it is a stalking horse for public bus and train workers. Anything won by Luas drivers will set a benchmark for public sector workers.

Mid-ranking civil servants at the annual conference of the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) in Galway yesterday unsurprisingly joined the fray and called for a faster reversal of pay cuts imposed during the economic crash. PSEU president Maria Ryan, describing these cuts as “unfair”, as if almost everyone in society had not been hit, said that the pace of recovery facilitated an acceleration of “pay restoration”. “Against a background of growth rates of 7%-8%, public servants cannot be expected to wait until 2018 for the next phase of restoration,” she declared.

Though it will be dismissed as an attack on the public service it would be wrong not to reject these demands until pay rates of all new public servants match their older colleagues and until all public services are staffed properly. Tragically, yesterday’s Dáil jamboree prevented the establishment of a government strong enough to take that position.


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