SF seeks pay cut for those 'at the top'

Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 00:00

Excessive pay and pensions “of a tiny minority at the top” have to be tackled as part of public-sector reform when nurse graduates are being offered “yellow pack” wages, the Dáil heard.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said “Ministers, special advisers and senior civil servants all need to have their pay cut” as she accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of threatening public sector workers with pay cuts.

The Dublin Central TD contrasted the pay, conditions and pensions of former and current office holders, special advisers and senior public servants, with the “yellow pack” wage being offered to graduate nurses. Her comments followed a report that just seven of 116 former ministers gave up part of their pensions last year.

Former office holders

Questioned about the pay of former office holders, Mr Kenny said “I don’t speak for them”, but he paid tribute to those who had given up their pensions.

He added: “This Government has made decisions for the future about all politicians, about the ending of severance pay, about the reduction in wages and salaries and therefore an impact on pensions.”

Ms McDonald had contrasted the protection afforded to former officer holders with “Minister for Health James Reilly’s plan to slash the pay and conditions of graduate nurses and midwives, to accept yellow-pack jobs within the health service”.

Mr Kenny said the new graduate job offer was an opportunity to work in Irish hospitals without having to face the prospect of going abroad.

He said to Ms McDonald: “I thought you’d have welcomed that 1,000 extra jobs are being made available for Irish nurses in Irish hospitals.

“But I also understand your party leader went abroad to have treatment under a health system in the US. He’s entitled to do that, but I understand you’re all on the industrial wage and these things are difficult to understand fully.”

Ms McDonald pointed to remarks at the weekend about graduate nurses when she said the “Minister for Health said if they weren’t happy with the scheme that they should emigrate or perhaps get a job in a fast food restaurant”.

Mr Kenny rejected her claims that he had threatened public sector workers, and said the Government was negotiating with trade unions on savings. “We would much prefer to have this by consent and by agreement,” he said. However, “the Government reserves the right to legislate for savings that cannot be reached by consent and agreement”.

‘Former comrades’

At Question Time, Minister of State for Public Expenditure Brian Hayes said that of a total public sector workforce, there were about 6,000 on salaries of €100,000. He hit out at Ms McDonald, saying “what is sick is to pretend to people that you can solve this problem by taking out everyone on a salary of €100,000, putting them up against a wall and doing what your former comrades used to do to them”.

He said “those at the very top have seen pay cuts of up to 30 per cent in some circumstances, those in the middle have seen pay cuts of approximately 15 per cent, and those at the bottom have seen pay cuts of 5 per cent or 6 per cent”.