Public servants should be 'first in the queue' for pay restoration, union says

Thursday 24 April 2014 21.40
The PSEU says that public servants earning €50,000 in 2009 were now €483 worse off per month
The PSEU says that public servants earning €50,000 in 2009 were now €483 worse off per month

Mid-ranking civil servants have insisted that restoration of public service pay after the cuts of recent years should take priority over tax cuts across the broader economy.

Public Service Executive Union President Brendan Lawless said it would be premature to say the dark days were over, but said it would be equally remiss not to note signs of some life coming back to the economy.

Addressing the union's annual conference, he said that a disproportionate amount of the burden of adjustment in the public finances had fallen on public servants.

They were entitled to be "first in the queue" for any restoration, he said.

He also said the message needed to go out to the political system that tax cuts damage the ability to deliver public services.

Delegates at the conference voted to seek meaningful negotiations to protect pay and pension rights and conditions of service. 

They want their pay and conditions restored to the position before the Croke Park Agreement was drawn up in 2010. 

They will seek restoration of pay cuts, elimination of the pension levy and a return to their previous shorter working hours.

Mr Lawless said that the Haddington Road negotiation process had highlighted the fragmented nature of public service union organisation.

The Government side found itself in the position of being able to operate with tightly controlled unanimity, he said, while the union response was "disjointed, sometimes mutually contradictory and often no better than the lowest common denominator".

He said this had not been in the interests of public servants over the last five years.

Mr Lawless also noted that the PSEU had held preliminary talks about a future union organisation with other administrative unions - the AHCPS, the CPSU and IMPACT.

He said that if they were to build something capable of protecting members, they must have the courage to embrace the possibility of change.

Earlier, General Secretary Tom Geraghty described the mood of his members and of public servants generally as "quiet anger".

Mr Geraghty said Government employees had taken a disproportionate reduction in incomes and working conditions since 2009.

He cited research carried out by the PSEU that showed a public servant earning €50,000 in 2009 was now €483 worse off per month.

He said they were also working additional unpaid hours under the Haddington Road Agreement.

Mr Geraghty acknowledged that private sector workers who had lost their jobs over the last five years had suffered most.

However, he said that if the actual figures were examined, public service workers had taken hits on income significantly greater than the vast majority of private sector employees who had remained in employment.

He said ministers were falling over themselves to talk about tax cuts when the country moved into recovery.

Mr Geraghty said that if the Government was in a position to talk in these terms, then his members wanted their money back, as well as negotiations on all the changes introduced since 2009.

He said a pay claim could be lodged by the middle of 2015, despite the fact that the Haddington Road Agreement is binding until 2016.