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The latest public sector pay agreement was announced last week. Alamy Stock Photo
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'I'm keenly aware of private sector colleagues': We asked public sector workers about the new pay deal

A number of readers said that the deal doesn’t do enough to recognise the cost of living for people living and working in Dublin.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS today approved the new public sector pay deal which will see a 10.25% pay rise for public sector workers over two-and-a-half years.

Public sector unions will now cast their votes, in favour or against, on the lastest deal, with the final results expected by 25 March.

Getting to this stage with the Public Service Agreement was not straightforward. Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe described the deal today as being the result of a “complex and difficult negotiation process”.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which led negotiations between public sector unions and the government, said the deal was the “absolute maximum achievable through negotiations”. 

The negotiations were clouded in distrust between workers, unions and government – after years of austerity cuts and what many workers viewed as unfair deals.

That is why we asked our readers who work in the public sector to tell us what they make of this new deal. Does the proposed pay increase represent a fair deal, or does it not go far enough to support them with the cost of living?

A number of readers told us that they believe the deal does not go far enough and that the universal pay rise approach was unfair to younger workers who have just entered the sector.

Other readers felt there was too much emphasis on the pay portion of the deal, leaving specific issues within their sectors – such as the general poor pay for the ambulance service, for example – to one side. 

Here is a selection of comments from readers. 

Does not go far enough

A number of readers believed that the pay deal did not go far enough. While it introduced pay increases, these workers believed it will fall short at addressing the cost of living.

Henry, HSE employee

One reader called Henry, who works for the HSE, said the deal “does not go far enough to address the cost of living crisis and crucially the failure on a housing policy”.  He said the deal won’t have any impact on the possibility of him qualifying for a mortgage.

“Public and civil servants have found their earnings eroded and when the economy goes through a bumpy patch we are the scapegoats for poor policy and governance.

“The current deal does not address theses issues nor will it help stimulate the economy until the high cost of fuel, electricity and gas are addressed as these are driving inflation.”

Anonymous, Nurse (44), Wexford

One nurse with 23 years post-registration experience also said the pay deal does not go far enough.

“The pay deal is not even enough to keep up with inflation so is not a pay rise at all,” she said. “That said I am keenly aware of our [private] sector colleagues who may not get any pay increase.”

She added that she’d support a reduction to “the massive pension levies that were intended to be short term measures but have remained in place”.

Anonymous, Primary School Teacher (41), Louth

One primary school teacher told us he was “relatively happy with the terms of the agreement”, particularly mentioning the fact that the increase dates back to 1 January.

He added that he hopes “sectoral bargaining” will be used to address areas of particular crises such as recruitment in gaelscoileanna.

Muinteoirí in gaelscoileanna have told The Journal that the teaching-through-Irish allowance should be reintroduced “for the sake of equity”.

The teacher agreed with our last reader that this deal also doesn’t do enough to deal with high inflation and growing costs. He adds: “But, in comparison to most in the private sector, the cumulative impact of the last number of agreements has probably outstripped inflation.

“I will most likely vote to accept the deal as it’s the best option at this moment in time.
I do, however, have serious concerns that teaching, as a career choice, is not currently attractive enough to newly qualified or prospective teachers.

“This is obviously part of a broader problem in housing, but young teachers are choosing to move abroad in their droves as buying a house is not financially feasible in many parts of the country.

“Therefore, whilst welcome and appreciated, 4% increase per annum will not do nearly enough to attract and retain teachers in the profession in the midst of a severe housing affordability crisis,” he adds.

Issues with the universal pay rise

A universal rise in pay was dubbed a missed opportunity by these two readers – but for separate reasons.

Colly, Clerical Officer in the civil service

Colly said while he was happy with the deal, he believed it should’ve been more structured and not included the same high increase to those in position of management or delegation.

He said: “From my experience only Clerical Officer (CO) and Executive Officer (EO) level do any work. Higher Executive Officers delegate out work to EO and CO levels.” 

Colly told us that he thinks it is “ridiculous” that those in higher positions are also entitled to the same increases, especially since the more senior positions receive more annual leave time.

Martin (42), Assistant Principal Officer in the civil service, Dublin 

Interestingly, Martin – who is on a higher grade than our previous reader – believed that the universal pay increase was a “missed” opportunity. 

Martin, who has been in the civil service for two decades, said: “There should be a targeted Dublin premium for those who live or work in Dublin.

He detailed that workers in Dublin do not have “the same spending power or parking etc as those down the country”.

According to Martin, his colleagues who live in a four-bedroom home, on one income and outside of the capital, “live more financially well off than they did as a two-income family in Dublin”.

He suggested that more working from homes would be better to reduce costs of living, particularly childcare, and the inability to do so might hinder new entrants into the public sector.

Specific issues not resolved

Some readers expressed in their responses that some specific issues, such as the length of time to process transfer requests and the general poor pay for the ambulance service, had been left to one side.

Anonymous, Paramedic in the National Ambulance Service

One paramedic told us that he and many of his colleagues from the National Ambulance Service will be voting against this pay deal as they are still waiting specific pay disputes to be settled.

He said that the current top salary for a basic paramedic is €42,000 per annum – something the cohort feel places them in the same category as groundskeeping or maintenance within the healthcare system.

“[We] are not recognised as healthcare professionals like nurses and physiotherapists even though you are now required to have a degree to become a paramedic,” he said.

Anonymous, Executive Officer (33), based in Dublin (but soon to be Cavan)

This Executive Officer told us that he had been promoted in the Department of Health in 2020 and had moved, with his two young kids and partner, to rural Cavan during the pandemic.

“I worked from home for awhile and it was great. For the past few years there is a push back into the office. With commuting this is a huge cost for me every week not to mention a huge cost on the environment with carbon emissions – this is important to me and I do feel bad driving but I’ve no options.”

The man told us he had put in a transfer request to move to more closer to home three-and-a-half years ago. While his transfer was recently accepted, he believes more could’ve been done in negotiations towards making this process quicker.

“If a civil servant wants to get the f**k out of Dublin, they should be facilitated to do so as quickly as possible. If not, they should at least be allowed to work from home.”

He claims that these measures would help other public sectors workers combat the cost of living, reduce emissions and reliance on public transport services and housing in Dublin.

The worker says he believe the pay deal is good, however. 

Anonymous, Maths and Chemistry Teacher, Co Wicklow

This maths and chemistry teacher said that while the pay increase is welcome, the deal “fails to address the fundamental issues that have been plaguing recent teachers for far too long”.

“It fails to address the fundamental inequities that plague our workplace, particularly the unfair two-tier payscale that creates a two-class system among our workforce,” he said.

“This arbitrary division between experienced and newly hired employees is not only demoralising but also perpetuates an unsustainable system of inequity.”

He said he believes that the agreement “does nothing to alleviate the excessive administrative burden placed upon us” for paperwork and reports that is “taking a toll” on the cohort’s morale and productivity.

“We are expected to juggle our core duties with an endless stream of administrative tasks, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and undervalued.

“This excessive workload is not only unsustainable but also detracting from our ability to provide the best possible service to our students,” he added.

He added that working hours that were set in previous agreements means it is becoming “more and more difficult” to find enough time to organise additional, extra-curricular activities for students. 

He argues that this leaves little time for students to connect with each other on a personal level and develop their own professional development.

“As a result, many teachers are feeling burned out and done are leaving the profession altogether,” he said.

“This is a lose-lose situation for both teachers and students. Teachers deserve to be valued for their hard work and dedication, and students deserve to have educators who are passionate about their subject matter and committed to their success.”

‘Win for everybody’

Oliver (30), Clerical Officer, Co Dublin

Where one reader described the deal as a “lose-lose”, Oliver said it was a “win for everyone”. 

“I am happy with the pay deal and will vote to accept it, I think it’s fair,” he told us.

He adds: “Naturally I’m biased, but I do think it will represent good value for money for taxpayers. The division I work in is struggling to retain staff.”

Oliver believes the pay increases will help to stop employees from moving into similar roles in the private sector, improve the quality of services for the public and help the workers with the cost of living at the same time.

Some quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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