Motion on public pay fails to gain support at FF meeting

 

A MOTION calling on the Government to reverse its decision to alter the pay cuts of high-ranking public servants received very little support at last night’s Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan got a round of applause after defending the measure during the meeting, which was also addressed by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

At last week’s meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, which Mr Lenihan or Mr Cowen did not attend, some 15 TDs and Senators had expressed criticism.

The motion, tabled by backbench deputies Michael Kennedy from Dublin North and Mattie McGrath from Tipperary South last night, was not voted on. It was dismissed as a “damp squib” by another member of the parliamentary party.

Mr McGrath said he was “completely deflated” last night and conceded that “the status quo remains”.

He added: “A handful were supportive of us, but they weren’t going to break any eggs”.

Deputies Michael Woods, Niall Blaney and Michael Ahern are understood to have been particularly vocal in their support for the Minister.

Mr Lenihan was asked to give the rationale for changing the budget provisions. In the budget, he announced that public servants at the assistant secretary and deputy secretary levels and equivalent grades throughout the public service would be subject to pay cuts of 8 – 12 per cent, depending on salary.

However, in a circular issued in Mr Lenihan’s name on December 23rd, the reductions were reduced to 3 – 5½ per cent.

One member of the parliamentary party, who had previously condemned the decision, said the Minister was “very convincing”.

Mr Lenihan, who spoke at the beginning and at the end of last night’s meeting, argued that he had varied the reductions because employees at that level had already forfeited bonus payments in February 2009, which were worth an average of 10 per cent of salary.

Last night, members of the parliamentary party were given a breakdown of the 600 civil servants that the reverse will benefit, as well as details of changes in net pay since 2008 for secretaries general, deputy secretaries general, assistant secretaries general, principals, assistant principals and clerical officers.

Mr Lenihan revealed that 231 directors of services at local authority level and more than 100 HSE managers were among the 600.

Members of the parliamentary party asked if the Local Government Efficiency Review Group would examine the scale of the local authority salaries and the Minister said he would request this be included in the groups investigations.

The group is tasked with identifying cost savings in the 34 local authorities.

Highly-placed sources said last night that personnel affected by the original cut would now be entitled to claim back money for the amounts deducted in January which were over and above the levels set out in the amended Department of Finance circular.

Some senior managers had pay deducted in January at the rate set out in the budget because the pre-Christmas reversal came too late to change their payroll arrangements.

Yesterday, the Health Service Executive and local authorities received new circulars setting out revised pay rates for senior personnel to take account of the new Government position on the pay cuts.

The Government’s decision to scale back the extent of the pay cuts for top earners in the public service has infuriated unions representing lower-paid staff, who claim that their members are now taking a larger hit in comparison.