Weekly public-private sector pay difference widens to €247

Widening pay gap prompts warning about public sector talks from business lobby group

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) has warned against “unjustifiable” public-sector pay increases following the release of figures that show a widening of the pay gap between the public and private sectors.

The latest earnings data from the Central Statistics Office show average weekly earnings in Ireland rose 1.4 per cent to €723 in the first quarter of 2017.

They also reveal the differential in weekly pay between the public (€916) and private sector (€669) now stands at €247, a rise of €4 on the corresponding period last year.

This prompted Isme to call for prudence in the ongoing public-sector pay talks.

“The yawning pay gap between public and private sector is unique to Ireland. In other OECD countries, the gap is narrower or nonexistent,” Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell said. “This is no longer just a fiscal issue. It is an issue of basic social solidarity, morality and equality,” he said.

“The Public Service Pay Commission’s report acknowledged that our public servants are amongst the best paid in Europe, and found a recruitment or retention problem in just two sectors of our public service,” Mr McDonnell said.

“Yet without exception, every union, in every sector of our public service, is looking for increased pay and more recruitment,” he said.

Unjust comparison?

Unions are at pains to point out that the differential between public- and private-sector pay reflects the high number of poorly paid staff in the services and hospitality sector in Ireland, and that the comparison is therefore unjust.

The ongoing row comes as the latest round of public-sector pay talks kicks off.

A report by Dublin-based stockbroker Davy earlier this year found that public-sector workers here earn 40 per cent more on average than their counterparts in the private sector, even before any allowance for their pension entitlements and job security is made.

The report found that average public-sector wages in Ireland amounted to €47,400 compared with €33,900 in the private sector.

Separate CSO figures, meanwhile, show there were five significant industrial disputes during the first quarter of 2017 involving 4,012 workers and five firms, resulting in an estimated 19,439 days lost.

The same figures indicate there were four disputes for the same period last year involving 4,828 workers and resulting in 5,115 days lost.

The CSO said the transport and storage sector accounted for 56 per cent of total days lost in the first quarter.