Source: People Before Profit Ireland
Talks have started on a new public sector pay agreement to replace the Public Services Stability Agreement (PSSA). The indications are that the government will offer nothing to public sector workers next year and that a deal could be finalised in two weeks.
This is unacceptable. Public sector workers have played a fantastic role in fighting the COVID19 virus. They have gone way beyond the call of duty in helping to prevent the spread of infection and caring for those affected. At one stage one-third of all cases were among health care workers, most of whom got infected at work.
Across the public sector workers have faced huge changes to the working arrangements and have made big adjustments so that they can continue to provide a service to the public.
Clapping is Not Enough
The public rightly acknowledge their role by clapping them on. But if we really want to support them and show they are valued we need to pay them properly.
The COVID19 crisis has shown the inadequacies of our public service especially in health and education. We need more investment and more staff, yet current pay levels are making jobs across the public sector very unattractive. We need to ensure that our public sector workers are paid properly.
Pay Fell Behind
Over the terms of the PSSA (2018-2020) most public sector workers got increases 5.75% for three years. Yet across the economy as a whole, wages increased by 6.9% over two years (2018 and 2019). By any measure Public Sector workers have fared badly compared to general movements in pay. While full figures for 2020 are not available, pay movements in the early part of 2020 are running at 6%, well in excess of the general 2% given to public sector workers.
Added to that the pension levy was converted, as part of the PSSA, into an Additional Superannuation Contribution. Contributions range from 3% or 1% of salary. This is not paid in the private sector.
End Free Hours
Add to this that public sector workers have been working additional free hours since the Croke Park and Haddington Road Agreements. These hours were forced on workers and must now be removed. These hours effectively reduced the hourly rate of workers across the public sector.
It’s Not Cheap to Live Here
Like all workers public sector workers have faced rising cost across the board. While their pay rose by 2% and 1.75% in 2018 and 2019, rents rose by over 6% in each year. Ireland has the second highest price levels in the EU, 33% above the average. Childcare costs are twice the OECD average and highest in the EU.
Don’t Let Them Get Away With It
The government wants to use the COVID19 crisis to impose more austerity. If they get away with a pay freeze all employers will feel they can do the same. All workers should support the demand for decent pay increases for public sector workers. The government will argue that the money is not there but People Before Profit have made a series of proposals that would bring in significant money from corporations and the rich that could fund our public service. For example, if we ensured corporations pay tax on more of their profits, by closing loopholes created for tax evasion and avoidance, we could raise an extra €5bn a year. The money is there if the government want to go after it. Huge resources have been pumped into profitable companies to keep them going during the COVID19 crisis.
Put the Pressure On
Union leaders must get the message that a pay freeze is not acceptable. They have entered into talks without any consultation with members. Members have no idea what they are seeking. Demand that your branch meets as soon as possible to discuss the agreement. Pass motions against a wage freeze and demand decent pay increases.