The civil service is struggling to recruit staff because salaries are not keeping up with those available in alternative private sector jobs, according to IMPACT. In a submission to the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC), which is examining recruitment and retention problems in parts of the public service, the union identified a range of grades where it is now difficult to hire. They include cleaners, solicitors, meteorologists, radio officers, technical agricultural officers, valuers, Oireachtas researchers, translation staff, and special education needs organisers.
The submission said a recent competition for permanent established posts within Dublin Garda stations attracted so few applicants that it has to be repeated. IMPACT national secretary Andy Pike also said the starting salary for cleaners working in the Garda training college in Templemore was €9.10 – below the legal minimum for private sector contract cleaners.
“Further difficulties have been reported recruiting cleaning staff for the Department of the Taoiseach. The low starting salary is not competitive with pay rates in the private sector,” he said. The submission also points to ongoing problems recruiting meteorologists. A recent panel for forecasters led to just three posts being filled, while eight candidates refused positions because of low starting salaries.
A 2016 competition for special education needs organisers (SENOs) was equally unsuccessful. It saw all but one of 20 qualifying candidates walk away because better deals were available in schools.
The PSPC’s examination of recruitment and retention issues was one of the measures won by IMPACT and other unions in the recently-endorsed Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA). The commission has been asked to establish the extent and nature of recruitment and retention problems and, where they exist, to recommend measures to address them.
“Across the state’s laboratories, law offices and many specialist agencies, the current starting salaries are no longer competitive when compared to the private sector labour market for specialist staff,” said Andy. He added that the length of the engineer pay scales is proving to be a barrier to retaining staff who are no longer prepared to wait for close to two decades to reach the top of their scale.