The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has revealed that the cost of incremental pay hikes for civil servants will fall this year.

Around 10% of those receiving increments earn more than €70,000.

Minister Brendan Howlin strongly defended the increments, saying cutting them would hit lower-paid and frontline Government employees.

In a letter to Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming, he said the cost of civil service increments will fall from €23m in 2009 to €18m this year, and to €16.5m next year.

The percentage of civil servants entitled to increments is also falling. It is down from 43% in 2009 to 39% this year, with a further drop to 36% expected in 2013.

Mr Howlin noted that over 76% of civil servants entitled to increments earn less than €50,000.

In the broader 300,000-strong public service, around 44,036 workers earn over €70,000, which is less than 15%.

Mr Howlin said that only a small proportion of those would be eligible for increments.

The cost of increments is falling because the Government workforce is shrinking, fewer new workers are being recruited, and more existing staff have reached the top of their pay scales and no longer qualify for increments.

In addition, new recruits are being paid 10% less than existing staff.

Mr Howlin said the figures confirm his view that the vast majority of those on incremental pay scales are lower-paid workers: frontline staff, such as teachers and gardaí, along with recent recruits, who would be affected disproportionately by cutting increments.

The minister told Mr Fleming there were fairer ways to control the cost of public pay, but he did not specify what they might be.

He also restated the Government's commitment to cut the total cost of the Exchequer pay bill by €3.5bn (20%) between 2008 and 2015.

Mr Howlin's letter to Mr Fleming cites pay statistics for the public service that show:

  • 19,422 earn under €20,000
  • 26,749 earn €20,000 - €30,000
  • 66,504 earn €30,000 - €40,000
  • 68,935 earn €40,000 - €50,000
  • 44,019 earn €50,000 - €60,000
  • 30,315 earn €60,000 - €70,000
  • 22,285 earn €70,000 - €80,000
  • 10,814 earn €80,000 - €90,000
  • 4,146 earn €90,000 - €100,000
  • 3043 earn €100,000 - €125,000
  • 1,212 earn €125,000 - €150,000
  • 2,536 earn over €150,000

Responding to the news, Mr Fleming called on public servants earning over €70,000 a year to forego their incremental pay rises on a voluntary basis.

He said he accepted that the vast majority of those eligible for increments earn less than €50,000.

Mr Fleming said the issue was at the higher end of the pay spectrum.

He acknowledged that the Government could not unilaterally remove increments, as they were protected under the Croke Park Agreement.