Eoghan Harris does his best to separate the Labour Party from its Connellian heritage and argues that Connelly himself would be less than impressed with Eamon Gilmore’s one way bet on the public sector interest. That of course is a moot point, but he notes that the roots of the problem lie with Fianna Fail’s bizarre benchmarking deals of 2002:
Let’s start with pay. Peter Cassells, the respected former leader of the ICTU, says the Irish economy cannot recover until average public sector pay falls below that of the private sector. By that stern standard, last week’s CSO figures make for grim reading.
Contrary to practice all over Europe, public sector earnings here are higher than private sector earnings, and have been so since the first round of public sector benchmarking in 2002. Both the CSO and the ESRI put the gap at about 20 per cent, after variations in age and qualifications are taken into account.
The gap is not going away. In the 12 months to the end of June, private sector hourly earnings amounted to €19.32 while public sector hourly earnings stood at €28.81. That’s a gap of nearly €10. As well as being wrong it is also why we are not recovering.
Connolly, like Marx, believed that every political party is the party of a class. But uniquely, the minority Irish public sector managerial class maintains not just one party but five parties to protect it!
That is why last week all five parties conspired to cover up that there was no need for heavy taxes or cuts in health if they were prepared to take on the public sector unions by cutting either public sector pay or pensions or numbers.
Last week, in the lead-up to the Budget, all five parties failed to follow up on Ed Walsh’s statement that if we benchmarked public pay against Northern Ireland we could save €15bn. It’s easier to take on the sick than the public sector unions.