CABINET ministers were last night accused of taking pay cuts less than those imposed on the lowest paid public sector workers.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was criticised for exaggerating the size of the wage cuts taken by the cabinet -- and it was claimed that his pay cut was less than the one taken by cleaners in his own department.
In his Budget speech, Mr Lenihan said that Taoiseach Brian Cowen's salary would be slashed by 20pc. The salaries of cabinet ministers and secretaries general of various government departments will be cut by 15pc.
However, these cuts factor in the voluntary 10pc cuts already taken by the cabinet and mean that the new pay cuts amount to 10pc for the Taoiseach and 5pc for ministers.
Opposition parties were quick to criticise ministers for only taking the same pay cuts as those imposed on public sector workers earning less than €30,000.
In his speech, Mr Lenihan said the salary of the Taoiseach would be reduced by 20pc.
"This reduction, together with the pension levy means the Taoiseach's salary will be cut by close to 30pc in total," he said.
"Ministers and secretaries general of government departments will take a pay cut of 15pc, an overall cut of close to 25pc when the pension levy is taken into account."
The Taoiseach's salary was €285,583 and ministers' salaries were around €225,000, before any pay cuts were taken.
As a result of the latest cuts, Mr Cowen's salary is now €228,467 and a minister's salary is €191,000.
"Ministers in the Fianna Fail-Green Government will only take a 5pc pay cut as a result of Budget 2010, because it factors in the 10pc cut already imposed earlier this year," said Fine Gael's Richard Bruton. "The Government's attempt to portray this as a 15pc pay cut is false and deceptive."
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore also denounced the minister's announcement of the pay cuts as a "scam".
"Brian Lenihan made much play on the contribution he and his colleagues were making to the reductions in public sector pay," Mr Gilmore said.
"He said that the salary of the Taoiseach would be reduced by 20pc and that ministers would take a pay cut of 15pc.
"What Brian Lenihan did not say was that part of this reduction in salary -- as much as 10pc -- has been in place since October 2008, as a voluntary, non-statutory 'contribution'.
"The cut in current pay announced in today's Budget is in fact just 10pc for the Taoiseach.
"And his ministers are going to suffer a current pay cut of just 5pc."
TDs will also see their salaries slashed in line with the wage cuts announced for all public sector workers. TDs earn a basic wage of €100,190, which can rise to €106,582 depending on how long someone has been in the Dail.
A TD earning €100,190 will see his wages drop by 7.5pc to €92,500 and those on €106,582 will see theirs drop by 7.6 pc, or by around €8,000.
Mr Lenihan last night rejected opposition criticism of the scale of the ministerial pay cuts. He said the reduction was permanent and would for the first time affect ministers' pensions.
"What was a transient, voluntary gift has been replaced by a permanent 15pc reduction in salary," he said.
And Mr Lenihan criticised the lack of voluntary salary deductions by TDs since he made his appeal last year.
"It's just derisory this is all they can come up with after a Budget of this seriousness. There wasn't exactly an avalanche of voluntary contributions there," he said.
Mr Lenihan also rejected claims that TDs' expenses had not been affected by the cutbacks.
He said the new reformed expenses system, which would force TDs to vouch for all costs, would be implemented in the coming weeks.