Brendan Ryan, Labour Party TD for Dublin North, has written to Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, seeking the protection of incomes for low and middle income public sector employees. The negotiations, which are a follow-up to the Croke Park Agreement have begun in earnest this week and Deputy Ryan has criticised some of the worrying language emanating from partners involved in the negotiations.
"I am calling for all stakeholders to pursue these negotiations with a view to protecting low and middle income earners first. Many conservative voices in the media have perpetuated a narrative suggesting that the majority of public sector workers are overpaid and under worked. The facts are this; 68% of public servants earn less than €50,000 and 82% earn less than €60,000. This is not an extravagant wage and for a modest family with a modest home, such an income can be stretched to its limits just to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. For example, in my own constituency workers at Fingal County Council have seen a drastic decrease in their wages over and above the initial pay cuts. Loss of overtime and pension and shift changes has seen further cuts of between €150 and €250 in weekly take home pay depending on the grade.
"The take home pay for general operatives is averaging at €400 per week. These cuts are reflective of many other low and middle income workers over many sections within our public sector. These are the workers who have given so much already in terms of pay and have little or nothing left to give.
"It is vital that these low and middle earners are protected through whatever is drafted from this latest process. There could be the potential of further decline in consumer confidence and serious personal indebtedness if these workers were forced to take a further disproportionate fall in income. In addition, the response of this group of workers to such a decline in income would, I believe, make agreement very difficult. In that instance I would predict a greater likelihood of industrial unrest. The intervening years of the agreement has delivered substantial savings in the absence of any industrial conflict.
"Public Sector workers were the first to take deep cuts when Fianna Fáil collapsed our economy in 2008. Through the Croke Park Agreement, the public sector has continued to provide the public with services whilst delivering efficiencies in their own work practices. Rosters, overtime and premium pay arrangements have all delivered real pay roll savings on top of the 14% average pay cut taken by public sector workers when our crisis hit.
"I am sure Public Sector workers and Unions will agree that further savings can be delivered through further efficiencies in work practices and cost cutting measures and not impacting on incomes. After all, the Croke Park Agreement has so far delivered recurring annual savings of €1.5 billion and is on target to deliver net savings of €3.3 Billion by 2015."