Government "sleepwalking into disaster" on public sector pay

Labour Party leader calls for new national pay agreement

Government "sleepwalking into disaster" on public sector pay

Taoiseach Enda Kenny addressing the inaugural meeting of the Citizens Assembly in Dublin Castle | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The government has come under increasing pressure to set out a clear road map for the full restoration of equal pay for new and recently qualified public servants.

Secondary school teachers are set for the first day of strike action on Thursday with lower pay rates for recently qualified teachers one of two red-line issues for the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI).

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on education, Thomas Byrne said “the confusion at the heart of government” regarding pay equality is contributing to the industrial relations problems currently facing the country.

Deputy Byrne called on the Minister for Education to outline publicly a clear pathway "to full pay equalisation for newly qualified teachers.”

He said the government should clarify if it is committed to achieving equal pay for new entrants to the public service when talks begin on a replacement for the Lansdowne Road agreement.

In the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach said the government does not have at its disposal “the wherewithal to deal with these things immediately.”

Enda Kenny said the new Public Pay Commission will examine “the gradual negotiated repeal” of the emergency financial measures introduced during the financial crash - including potential pay equality for recent hires.

He called the ASTI action “unnecessary” and said the deal currently on offer would result in pay increases of between 15% and 22% for newly qualified teachers with “a route to possible further improvements through the public pay commission which was announced today.”

He said there can be no question “of making special arrangements for anybody outside the Lansdowne Road agreement.”

“I am disappointed that things have gone this far, but there is still time for the ASTI to pull back,” said Mr Kenny.

One of the chief architects of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin called for negotiations to begin on a new national pay agreement which could accelerate the restoration of equal pay for all public servants "on an agreed and affordable basis.” 

"It is clear to any seasoned observer of industrial relations that the Government is simply sleepwalking into disaster," he said.

“For all the talk about ‘engagement’, the only way to hold the public services together is to negotiate with everybody.

“I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say all public servants have made an enormous contribution to the recovery of the State. Without their contribution, we would not be in the financial position we are in.

“All of them now need to see a clear pathway to full pay recovery.”

Mr Howlin said negotiating with individual unions separately is a “recipe for prolonged industrial chaos, if not the complete collapse of the overarching agreement across the public service.”

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said pay equality needs to be introduced before the end of the Lansdowne agreement.

The Government's current position that this measure can only begin in two years' time is just not feasible. Kicking the can down the road, the habitual sport of this Government, will not solve the problem,” he said.

“What is required is meaningful dialogue that sets out a clear and sensible plan for the provision of full pay restoration which prioritises those on low and middle incomes. Instead, the Government is ducking and diving,” he said.