Public service pay down; private sector stagnant

Average hourly earnings in the public sector have fallen by 5.4% since the end of 2008 according to new official data. Weekly public service earnings decreased at nearly the same rate (5.1%), or just under €50 a week.

The figures, from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), do not include the so-called pension levy which has further reduced public service pay by 7% on average.

Hourly earnings in the private sector were stagnant, with average hourly pay the same at the end of 2008 as it was in the last quarter of 2013. But weekly earnings in the sector fell by €21.63 (3.4%). The difference in weekly and hourly earnings in the private sector reflects decreases in working hours.

The difference between the sectors demonstrates how average earnings figures conceal the varied impacts austerity has had on workers. In the public sector, pay cuts were the main vehicle for reducing pay costs during the recession, along with significant employment reductions on a voluntary basis. In the private sector, the main vehicle for reducing wage bills was job cuts – including compulsory redundancies – and reductions in paid hours, along with some pay reductions.

A sectoral breakdown of the figures shows the biggest decline in weekly earnings (11%) was in the human health and social work sector, a category dominated by the public service . The biggest increase in weekly earnings was in the information and communication sector where weekly wages increased by 6%.

As well as providing further evidence of the hardships endured in the five years since 2008, the recently-released figures emerged as the debate surrounding pay increases begins to gain momentum. The IMPACT ebulletin recently reported that small but significant pay deals were starting to be negotiated in the private sector.