Just when you thought there was a chilling post-Budget menace from Chancellor Alistair Darling’s cross-examination by the press concerning the anticipated level of public sector cuts (under media scrutiny he likened the level of retrenchment to that witnessed in Margaret Thatcher’s era), here’s an even cooler blast from across the Irish Sea to chill you to the marrow…
The ‘Celtic Tiger’ – a few years ago – was renowned for an unmatched economic joie de vivre, but the world recession has put paid to that. Like mainland Britain it seems to bail out the national debt the only option is to make savage cutbacks in the Irish public sector.
However – in events unparalleled in mainland Britain – Irish Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, has reduced 6.1 million Irish public sector workers’ pay on average by up to 15% per annum – this has been achieved either through direct pay cuts, or forcing the Irish public sector workers to make significantly higher contributions to pensions where the Irish Government has withdrawn funding. In all Mr Lenihan has announced cuts in public sector spending of up to 4 billion euros. For more about this read an article by Henry McDonald (in Dublin) and Larry Elliot in the Guardian, Friday 11 December 2009, or Neil Tweedie of the Daily Telegraph, 29 March 2010.
Public servants, such as teachers, have been badly hit by the cuts. For example, the 31,000-strong Irish National Teachers’ Organisation says the average primary teacher’s salary of 60,000 Euros will be reduced by a fifth following a 6.5% pay cut, combined with two other cuts in pay last March and April. Sheila Nunan, the organisation’s incoming general secretary, said morale among Irish teachers was “the worst ever”, due to the Budget.
In Ireland these events have been compared to the British Winter of Discontent of 1979, when the Prime Minister, James Callaghan, attempted to hold a pay freeze to combat inflation.
However, strikes in Britain now seem to be beginning to build a head of steam – such as British Airways, Network Rail, as well as other public services including courts, job centres plus and the like, led by the public and commercial services union. So, things aren’t exactly plain sailing here either. But what would their reaction and yours, be to taking a 15% lop in your pay? Could this be a stark reality for the UK after the General Election…?
What are your thoughts on this?