Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Public Sector Pay (Continued)

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 953 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 68 Next Page Last Page

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I welcome the fact this is the first time we have got a figure on this from the Department. Obviously, much work has been done on this. We wanted this for last year's alternative budget process but, unfortunately, the information was not available. I understand there are many competing demands in the current pay talks and I genuinely wish all sides well. I want to see a fair pay deal and a collective agreement emerging from those talks and I have always said the agreement must be fair. It is not just a matter of the flexibilities the Minister might have or the flexibilities there might be within trade unions. It is a fact that the two-tier pay structure is still in place. I acknowledge some moves were made in 2013, but the Minister has stated even in the response he has given that there is still a two-tier pay structure. I believe it is reasonable and fair that this sore, which has been at the heart of many disputes in classrooms, hospitals and Garda stations, is dealt with once and for all. It is the fair thing for us to do and we have made this a red-line issue regarding what we want to see emerge from these talks.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe This matter has been raised by the Deputy and a number of other Deputies for some time, and I and my officials instigated much work to clarify what that figure would be. We estimate, as I said, that it would be more than €209 million. We have come to this figure on the basis of a cost in education of €70 million, using that figure then to work out what the consequences would be in other Departments.

Regarding the principles of what the Deputy has just said to me, I will make a broad, two-fold point to him. First, as the pay commission pointed out, at current levels of remuneration, we are successful in attracting very good graduates and new starters to nearly all aspects of our public service. The pay commission stated that: "Based on the numbers of applicants and the gradual increase in overall public service numbers, we found no evidence to support the view that reduced pay rates for new entrants represented a barrier to recruitment to the public service in general." Second, in workplaces all over the country and all over the public sector, not to mention the private sector, it is the case that many employees joined based on the economic health of the employer at the point in time at which they joined that organisation. The same applies in the public services. There are many different circumstances available to different employees at the points they joined. That said, these are the figures. It is a huge amount of money from the point of view of pay, and we will do what we can to address many matters in the context of the negotiations now under way.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy Calleary.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane Pardon?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Does Deputy Cullinane wish to follow through on the Minister's response?

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane Yes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I ask him to keep his contribution brief.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I respectfully say to the Minister that, when examining this, the fact it is a barrier to recruitment should not be the principal issue he should consider. The point is that it is simply unfair. In some areas in the public services we are finding it difficult to recruit. We can all give examples of hospitals across the State where we simply cannot recruit nurses. The Minister will be aware, because I raised this with him previously, that a number of wards in hospitals in Waterford were closed recently, one in University Hospital Waterford and another in Dungarvan Community Hospital, which simply could not recruit nurses. They put out a call for retired nurses and for people working part-time to do more hours. They are crying out for nurses but cannot get them. Whatever about the reduced pay rates being a barrier, they have been a source of frustration, anger and hurt felt by many front-line workers and the source of many of the industrial disputes we have seen in recent years. From the point of view of fairness, the Minister should act on this.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe If one were to accept - and I do not - that we have a generalised recruitment issue within our public services, and if one were then to go on to argue that its main cause is insufficient pay, the largest single contribution the State can make to higher levels of pay is the affordable unwinding of FEMPI legislation. If that is done in a way that is affordable to the State, it will result over time in affordable wage increases being made available to those who work in our public services and those who wish to join them. I go back to the figure to which I referred earlier, the scale of the figure and what it would mean for other needs we must meet. We are engaged in a process that is focused on whether the Government can reach an agreement on the affordable unwinding of FEMPI legislation, with all the very significant consequences and costs it will entail for the Exchequer.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I welcome the confirmation of the figure of €209 million. The Minister quoted from the Public Service Pay Commission report, but it also stated there may be an issue of equality regarding the different pay scales. Our public service is different. When we send two gardaí out on the streets this evening, one of them will be on one pay rate, the other on another one. They are both putting their lives in danger for us. The Minister says we do not have a generalised recruitment issue. Can he then explain to us why we are haemorrhaging nursing graduates; why 25 graduates from the paediatric nursing course in UCC are leaving to go to a hospital in London; why the HSE regularly sends missions to India to recruit nurses to staff our hospitals; and why the emergency department in Limerick, which opened on Monday, is predominantly staffed by nurses from Croatia? We have a recruitment problem, and pay and pay equalisation are part of that problem. Unless a signal is sent or a pathway provided from these talks, if they are finalised, that the Minister understands this problem and understands that the public service must be an employer of equality, I am afraid he will have a very difficult job selling that agreement to those whom it is supposed to benefit.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I have always been very clear about recognising the huge contribution our public servants make to our State and our economy, and I am very happy to make that clear again. Deputy Calleary used the example of the gardaí and the huge contribution they make to keeping our streets and communities safe. I will develop his analysis further. The pay commission accepts that in certain specific areas there may be an issue, but that issue is likely to be generated by a variety of reasons. Pay could be one of them but there could be other matters such as career development, training, workplace morale and so on. If the Deputy is going to argue that pay is a cause of a recruitment or retention issue, the largest single contribution we can make to increasing pay is seeing if we can afford to unwind the FEMPI measures. They are measures that offer the potential to benefit people at all levels within the public service and Civil Service. However, as I have said on a number of occasions, this has to be in a way that recognises the many other priorities and pressures we face, such as improving services and investing in the many needs we have in our schools and hospitals.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I accept that pay is one issue and there are others, and that has been highlighted by the Public Service Pay Commission, but it is the Minister's Department that is effectively the human resources, HR, agent for Government. He and his Department need to take the lead in concentrating on these issues. He needs to pull the HSE in and ask why we are losing the best graduates we have to offer and why representatives of hospitals from all over the world are flying in to recruit them before they leave college. If there are other issues, it is the HSE's fault, but the Minister is the overall HR guardian of Government employment, and his Department needs to step up and start challenging other agencies in this regard. Again, I put it to him that the money being spent on travelling around the world to recruit people for public service jobs for which we have graduates here is surely money that could be better spent within our health system or within a system of keeping people working and keeping our best graduates, in whom we as a country have invested enormously, working for Irish services.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Then let us consider what is happening in the HSE at present. From November of last year to March of this year, the HSE recruited 500 persons per month to work in the different services the HSE provides. This is because of our commitment to treat people fairly but in a way that is affordable to the Exchequer and recognises all the other needs on which all the Deputies will question me in a moment. They will ask me why we are not spending more money on schools and hospitals.


Last Updated: 11/09/2018 13:23:06 First Page Previous Page Page of 68 Next Page Last Page