But enough about Karl.
Why is the public sector so unhappy?
Writer, broadcaster and former civil servant Eamon Delaney writes
Public sector workers took pay cuts and endured hardship like the rest of us. But let’s keep things in perspective. The first pay cut was actually a pension levy, a contribution to the sort of rock-solid pensions that private sector workers could only dream of.
And under the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements, public sector workers endured pay cuts which were nothing like what was happening in the private sector, where people were facing huge cuts and job losses.
The lack of job losses is the key bit. [Tanaiste] Joan Burton claims that Ireland was unique among the bailout EU countries in that there were no strikes. But why would there be, with the Croke Park deal ensuring absolute job security?
By contrast, even the left wing Greeks have had to fire Civil Servants which Greece could not afford. But nothing like that happened here. Instead, tens of thousands of private sector workers lost their jobs and emigrated. Always remember that: the people who could balance out this debate have emigrated and are gone – in their thousands.
And yet despite these advantages, the public unions have been clamouring for the immediate reversal of the pay cuts they have had to endure. And they want this done ahead of tax cuts for the wider public.
Where is the sense of community solidarity, given that it is the working poor who have had to pay more in taxes to pay for precisely these public sector advantages? There is a double injustice here.
But the trade unions are in world of illusion. They act as if we never had the crazy policy of benchmarking, where unsustainable pay rises were given to civil servants in every boom time year. Imagine if we did that reverse, when we went into a crisis?
The language is one of entitlement. The trade union leaders say things such as that the pay cuts were monies ‘borrowed’ by the Government and now they want them back.
They also talk about the ‘extra productivity’ they had to endure and ‘increased efficiency’, as if these weren’t good things always to be welcomed..
Joan Burton speaks of the ‘huge changes’ in work practice. But most people I know who work in the public service, or deal with it, see no huge change. Burton’s first example, incidentally, was of ‘IT changes’, as if it was the 1980s again!
No wonder that under the performance review carried out last November (under the Haddington Road agreement) only an incredible 0.75% of public sector workers received a score of less than 3/5 or 60% ! It’s hardly credible.
All of this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of work itself. The unions talk of achieving ‘efficiencies’ and ‘productivity’, just as they talk about how hard many public sector workers have had to work in recent years, as if this was such an onerous demand.
But surely all employees should work hard, not just as a goal for their employers, but for themselves and for their sense of fulfilment and well-being, which itself increases productivity
I have worked in both sectors. I worked in a Government Department with outstanding and hardworking people but also with slackers and clock-watchers, who put great effort in dodging work and evading responsibility. And they were always the most miserable of workers and the most unfulfilled, spending time bitching about management and fellow workers. I also worked in a publishing company, full of driven, hardworking sales people.
They had no security, no fall-backs and no time to waste on coffee breaks and mandatory sick days.. But they were invariably content -ambitious, and full of adrenaline and drive. They relished challenges as well as risks. And they usually felt that the greater the risk, the bigger the reward which is why they would not begrudge those risk takers who made lots of money.
Why do our politicians indulge a sense of entitlement in the public sector? (Eamon Delaney, The Irish Daily Mail – unavailable online)