The Benchmarking report issued last week showed how public pay has gone ahead of the private sector. In certain areas, some occupational groups may get some attention but, overall, they are already doing quite well. The pension package alone is worth 12% of pay paid by the taxpayer. In the private sector, pension investments have proved hard to sustain with people living longer and investment returns not up to projections previously forecast.
The level of pension provision and job security that applies across the public service is something the vast majority of private sector workers can only dream about. The leadership shown is another matter in this pay debacle. It will cause some discontent as some had expected more in the lower paid sectors. That the Ministers and top civil servants and leaders of semi state companies get increases regardless is bad political judgement and may cause trouble in a future possible pay battle in the public service.
Trying to compare themselves with the private sector, where there is much competition and insecurity of job tenure is not realistic. This does not make for good debate. The majority of civil servants have been told to face reality but the elite have not the same criteria which is not a good example. Public service is not just about pay and money but providing service to the community. It should be more noble. People go into politics to serve the public and not to make money alone.
The higher remuneration reports for senior civil service personnel did not have the proper criteria. A pure comparison with the private sector was not correct as many work for monopolies. Doctors are also in a unique position in Ireland.
The failure of hospital consultants to agree new contract terms for new doctors is a similar story, they are already very well paid.
Compared to doctors in Germany, they are paid a multiple of those figures. Health Minister Mary Harney needs to get more international comparisons to show how well off the Irish consultants are in terms of their colleagues abroad and argue the case that the new offer for public only hospital consultants is a good one. The current private public contract model is not the best for the future and needs reform.
This argument has been going on for years and the public is suffering by a lesser service as a result. The higher the pay the fewer can be afforded and the less of a service there is for the public. Some realism is needed here also in getting these consultant contracts sorted.
Irish pay is now very high by international standards and more people need to realise this fact when the new pay round comes through. The economy is already weaker with the building boom subsiding so costs will have to be watched in the years ahead.
A deferral of top level pay rises should be demanded by Government given how the cabinet has held off on their rises. Such a move might lead to a better consensus in getting a new national pay deal. Ireland is really under competitive pressure at present and needs to know its direction over the next few years. Good example is the key.