Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Public Sector Pay

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 4 July 2012

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ceisteanna (1)

Sean Fleming


1Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the approximate number of public sector workers across all Departments and State agencies that are due to receive pay increments in 2012; the cost involved; if he is committed to their payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32625/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (11 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Public)

My Department has access to detailed data on increments only in the Civil Service sector, for which I have direct responsibility. On increments generally, based on the information submitted to my Department on the total cost of increments in a full year in the various sectors, the full year cost of increments, excluding the local authority sector, is now estimated at no more than €180 million per annum and less than half that sum this year. Significantly reduced recruitment, the ongoing substantial fall in numbers of public servants and higher numbers reaching the maxima of salary scales has, obviously, reduced the cost of increments. This cost will continue to fall in coming years.

The Government has reaffirmed its key commitments under the public service agreement in regard to pay and job security for serving public servants. These commitments are contingent on delivery of the necessary flexibilities and reforms to public service delivery that are required under that agreement. The budget process has outlined the Exchequer expenditure programme for 2012 and the necessary allocations have been made to Departments. Any further budgetary measures, should they arise, are a matter for consideration by Government. The vast majority of persons who are on incremental salary scales are the lower paid and people who have been recruited to the public service most recently. I reiterate my view that there are fairer ways to control the cost of public pay, given that only a proportion of public servants, in particular lower paid and front-line staff, would be affected by the suspension of increments.

I understand from the Minister's reply that we are having a general discussion on the issue. His response is a little light on specifics. He referred to a figure of €180 million, which excluded local authorities, so, obviously, we are talking about somewhere in the region of €200 million.

Half of that this year.

That is close to the figure Deputy Howlin's ministerial colleague, Deputy Varadkar, mentioned recently.

As Fianna Fáil spokesperson in this area, I accept increments are part of the pay scale. It might not be popular to say that in many sectors but, when a person joins any element of the public service, there is a clear salary scale and the person knows he or she is due a salary increase in, say, three or four years time. We are in the Croke Park deal and increments are part of that. While I know some Members on both sides of the House will fundamentally disagree, it is where we are at. Some might feel it politically popular to suit their political party's supporters and to knock that concept but I suspect the Minister, Deputy Howlin, is in the category that would want to defend that concept, at least until that concept is changed through future negotiation. As matters stand, it is part of it.

A question, please.

Will the Minister consider whether it is possible in the interests of low paid workers, who are the majority of workers on increment scales, to obtain information on the increments paid to staff who are currently on salaries of over €70,000? While I am not suggesting he can touch these at present, it is an issue that needs to be looked at. I put it to the Minister that while the majority of staff on the increment scale are low paid workers, the public think they are getting vast increments. The approach being taken by the Minister, which he might reconsider, is to use those low paid workers as a shield so the issue in regard to high paid workers on increments is not examined. Will the Minister seek to extract that information in order that we can have a considered debate on the issue? I did not say I am for or against increments but we need the facts.

I appreciate what I believe is the Deputy's considered view. As I said, I will discuss anything to do with the area under my purview. Everything should be on the agenda for discussion at least.

The Deputy is right on a number of points. Let me be clear. Various Labour Court determinations have stated that increments are part of basic pay - that is a fact. The Labour Court has determined this and it would be very difficult to unwind it. Increments have been part of the basic pay structure of public servants since the foundation of the State. It is a system we inherited that when people join, they know the pay range they will have. To interrupt that at a given point is a very dramatic change because people who are already maxed out, as it were, would not be touched, only those at the start of the scale. Do we suggest we will restore it in due course, so we build up a liability, or do we change the pay scales altogether? It is a very complex area.

The Deputy asked for a specific figure for those on annual salaries of more than €70,000 who are still on increments. While I cannot give the overall figure, I can give the figure for the Civil Service because I asked for it. We must remember there is an incremental scale, even at high rates, such as for principal officers and so on, because that is the way the structure has always been. There are 2,665 civil servants, or 14% of the total, who are eligible for increments above that pay grade.

As a final point, it would be extremely difficult to pick out any cohort of people and say we are going to alter fundamentally the basics of their pay. All of this is something I am open to considering, but I will not dislodge the fundamental architecture of Croke Park because it is delivering. As long as it continues to deliver, this Government will protect it.

I am pleased the Minister has now put on record the figure of 2,665 civil servants out of approximately 13,000, which is some 14%. It is interesting the Minister says they are eligible for increments this year. In other words, they are in a category where increments can be earned. This means 86% of public servants on increments are below that salary.

Civil servants.

It is important that this be said in the House. I want people to know the facts, including Ministers who attack the concept of increments and who are perhaps happy to attack 86% of public servants because they feel they are playing to their own political support base by doing that. However, I do not believe it is fair to pick on 86% of public sector workers in that situation.

I have asked the Minister, Deputy Howlin, to try to refine that figure further. Out of the 2,665 who are on a scale and eligible for increments, the Minister might drill into that figure to see how many of those will actually be entitled to an increment this year or next year. They might be on a scale but not due the increment this year, and we might find it is just 1,000 staff or perhaps 5% of public servants over that pay figure who will actually get an increment this year. I would not support an attack on low paid public servants. It might be helpful to those low paid workers if that figure was drilled into.

I will try to determine that figure and I will also look beyond the Civil Service to get the data, which are lodged in other Departments. I will ask for them.