The Cabinet's decision on Tuesday to defer a pay award for top Irish politicians for a year has been greeted as an empty gesture after weeks of controversy which saw ministers getting a special pay hike of 14-15%, as well as all retirees; the Dublin City Manager getting a 36% hike and the the Secretary-General of the Taoiseach's Department who has got one of the biggest hikes - 25%.
| The current Irish Cabinet at its first meeting in Áras an Uachtaráin on June 15, 2007. |
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that 1,600 other top public officials, including judges, semi-State chief executives, military and Garda officers will all receive their increases backdated to mid-September.
Employers' group IBEC, welcomed the decision by Government. IBEC Director General Turlough O'Sullivan described the move as a "meaningful and helpful gesture by the Government in the context of the current economic climate and the opening of talks on phase two of the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, in the New Year".
When the pay award was announced in October, IBEC remained silent and its Policy Director Danny McCoy referred to the recommendations being made by an independent panel, without criticism, in a radio interview.
The Cabinet had been moved apparently by the poor November Exchequer figures but within a week of the original announcement, Finance Minister Brian Cowen was calling for pay restraint.
Green Party leader John Gormley, who had remained on the fence on the Super VIP Benchmarking awards and suggested that the increases amounting to €67,000 in respect of 3 Green Party ministers, would be diverted to the party even though it was contrary to the Electoral Act, was not at yesterday's Cabinet meeting.
Speaking on Newstalk106 on Monday, Gormley, who is in Bali for the UN climate change conference said:
"I think there's some merit in what's been said. I'm not there [ in Ireland] obviously so I don't know the full context of what's been said. Likewise I hear there's speculation the Taoiseach is supposed to be giving the matter some consideration.
"Again I don't know about that. I think, and I think it's been very clear as well, that there has been a certain amount of disquiet, and in the context of social partnership it is difficult and it will be played up."
In regard to the reaction of trade unions, Gormley said: "The fact that even though it is a very independent report and this is the way it has been done for the last 30 years or so, there have been murmurs and misgivings coming from ICTU and others. So I think that needs to be considered when making any decisions in relation to this matter."
A very independent report? Indeed - just like the body that approves self-assessed annual bonuses for several public service managers?
ICTU, the Irish Congress of Trades Unions, has made clear that Tuesday's decision, will make no difference to trade union demands for higher pay for workers in next year's pay talks .
The Taoiseach said the Government was "mindful that the November exchequer figures were not as good as hoped".
In addition, the public service pay benchmarking report, was "imminent", he said.
ICTU general secretary David Begg said yesterday's move was "probably wise from a public perspective but from the point of the trades unions it doesn't change the position very much".
"It will have no implications for the unions' attitude to the upcoming talks," said Begg.
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív said it was "the right thing to do" given "that the public's finances were "not as robust - though still strong - as they were when the decision was first made".
The decision was made at the end of October.
Another minister, Mary Hanafin, said that Government Ministers have to be well paid, so that they are not "susceptible to outside interference".
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