IMPACT urges pay recovery as earnings fall

IMPACT has said new CSO figures, which show earnings have fallen in both the public and private sectors despite rising growth and employment, underline the need for pay increases in all sectors of the economy.

The union also hit back at media and business claims that the CSO stats, published on Monday (25th August) showed a large and widening gap between public and private sector earnings. IMPACT spokespeople refuted the claims on national radio and the union produced a political briefing to explain the reasons behind the gap in average earnings.

In a statement to journalists, IMPACT said: “Pay restoration must now be the priority to improve dented living standards in all sectors and support the fragile recovery by getting people spending in the local economy again.” The union’s pay restoration strategy, agreed at its May delegate conference, calls for pay restoration in the public, private and community sectors, and urges continued action to tackle unemployment.

The union recently welcomed public service minister Brendan Howlin’s confirmation that there would be talks next year on the start of pay restoration in the public service, where average earnings have fallen by around 13% since 2009. But the union also warned members that there would be stiff resistance to pay restoration from the media and others.

Gap

The latest CSO figures show the gap between public and private sector earnings narrowed in the year to mid-2014. The fall in average public service hourly earnings is especially pronounced. They fell by 3.1% in the year to mid-2014, compared to a drop of 0.5% in the private sector.

The CSO figures do not take account of the so-called ‘pension levy,’ which further reduces public service incomes by an average of 7.5%. Neither do they measure rewards for the same or similar jobs in the two sectors. This is because, as the CSO itself clearly states, its figures do not take account of specific job responsibilities or workers’ experience, qualifications or educational and professional attainment – all of which, on average, are higher in the public than the private sector.

The IMPACT briefing acknowledges that economists disagree on the size and significance of the pay gap, but says the most balanced and comprehensive study of recent years – by the CSO in 2012 – concluded that, depending on how it’s measured, it could be as little as minus 1.4% or as much as plus 11.4% once the pension levy is factored in.

Media

The pay gap for women is much higher than for men, which raises particular concerns about the prevalence of low paid and often precarious work for women in the private sector.

The arguments set out in the union’s briefing paper were outlined by IMPACT representatives in national radio interviews with Today FM (The Last Word) and Newstalk (the Pat Kenny show) yesterday (26th August). The union’s response to the CSO figures also featured on the front page of Tuesday’s Irish Examiner.

Over the last two weeks. IMPACT spokespeople have responded to Brendan Howlin’s announcement on public service pay talks on RTÉ TV and radio and the Newstalk breakfast show, as well as the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Examiner, The Journal, and local radio. The union also had a letter refuting Sunday Independent coverage of the public-private pay gap published in that newspaper on Sunday 24th August.