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Letters: The myth regarding public sector jobs and wages

The Assembly has now agreed a budget that mirrors the Chancellor's plans in Great Britain to reduce public spending to its lowest level since the 1930s.

Unfortunately, the Assembly's confidence in the cuts and other measures proposed is founded in myths about our economy. One of these is the notion that "public servants here have a 40% pay lead over their colleagues in the private sector".

However, this a partial quotation from the NI Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (19/11/14), which qualifies this, noting: "differences in the composition of the respective workforces."

"For example, many of the lowest-paid occupations, such as bar and restaurant staff, hairdressers, elementary sales occupations and cashiers, exist primarily in the private sector, while there are a larger proportion of graduate-level and professional occupations in the public sector."

Tellingly, the same document also notes: "Full-time employees in Northern Ireland had the lowest median gross weekly earnings (£457) across the UK regions at April 2014."

Another myth is that "our public sector is too big and needs to be cut to rebalance the economy". Yet again, the truth is hidden in plain view.

In DFP's Public Sector Pay and Workforce Strategy for 2009-2010, it confirms the reason the public sector here accounts for a higher proportion of jobs than in the rest of the UK "is in part due to the lower employment rate in Northern Ireland and the greater need for public services due to the demographic structure of the population and its socio-economic status".

Little wonder, then, that public sector unions are gearing up for industrial action on March 13, not merely in their own interests, but also in the interests of the wider community.

MICHAEL ROBINSON

Newtownabbey, Co Antrim

 

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