Minister defends move to reduce top-level cuts


PUBLIC SECTOR PAY:MINISTER FOR Finance Brian Lenihan has defended the decision to reduce the basic pay of some senior civil servants by 3 per cent while other workers face higher wage cuts.

Mr Lenihan said that people at assistant secretary grade would have been left more disadvantaged than other public servants if they faced the full impact of budgetary changes.

An “exceptional arrangement” had therefore been introduced for them, he added.

“We’re talking about a very restricted grade here, the assistant secretaries and equivalent grades in some other organisations. There are about 160 of these in all,” he told RTÉ Radio One’s News at One programme.

“But can I say this: that the bonuses were abolished already and if you take the effect on them of a much higher than average pension levy, the abolition of bonuses and the full impact of the recent cut would have left them more disadvantaged than any other public servant.”

Mr Lenihan said the pay of workers at this particular grade had been benchmarked against their counterparts in other European countries and they were not paid more than those at equivalent positions.

“They are not paid overtime for any additional work they do, their bonuses were abolished and in all those circumstances the Government took the view that it would be reasonable to make an exceptional arrangement for them given all those anomalies.

“And again the Government has that power under the legislation, and opted to exercise that power, and there’s no question of this being done in any clandestine way.”

The Department of Finance decided just before Christmas to minimise pay cuts for some senior civil servants.

The Civil Public and Services Union chief executive Blair Horan said the move was not fair to low-paid civil servants.

He said that many of them were struggling with housing and childcare costs.

“The idea that the Minister would reverse a cut of 8 per cent down to 3 per cent for higher grades and not do anything for the lower paid is just unfair,” Mr Horan said.

The Labour Party’s finance spokeswoman Joan Burton described the decision to apply a lower level of pay cut to certain senior civil servants as “immoral, unjust and legally dubious”.

Ms Burton said the move would undermine morale among low-paid workers in the public service and must be revisited at the earliest possible opportunity.

“The decision to take account of the earlier ending of a performance-related bonus paid to certain senior civil servants is quite illogical,” she said.

“What has been done with the deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries is to create a formula, without any legal basis, that takes into account the ending of a non-statutory, non-pensionable scheme earlier in the year and ends up therefore in a refusal to give effect to the legislation in its full terms, as it would have applied to those who were beneficiaries of the performance-related pay scheme.”