Thursday 29 September 2016

Con Lucey's report shows IFA executives' skilful negotiations that led to big pay increases

Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30

IFA Farm Centre in Bluebell, Dublin, last night
IFA Farm Centre in Bluebell, Dublin, last night

The report by Con Lucey gives a fascinating insight into how high-powered executives wrangle every last drop out of their pay negotiations.

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IFA staff have skilfully worked their way to salaries on a par with those in charge of the Department of Agriculture, where assistant secretaries earned up to €158,600, and principal officers up to €120,400 per year in 2008.

This is despite the fact that the IFA's budget is less than 1pc of that of Kildare Street's Agriculture House and staff numbers are a fraction of the thousands working for the department.

IFA staff justify this partly on the basis that they need to be able to 'mark their opposite numbers', and so must be just as well briefed as the Department mandarins.

They also claim that they work longer hours, with most of the staff doing over 35 night meetings every year.

While this would attract expenses allowances of more than €3,000, the executives emphasise that they rarely take time in lieu.

In addition, they argue that they have fewer days' leave or promotional opportunities compared to civil servants due to the flat nature of the staff structure at the lobby group. Showing the lobbying skills, the IFA staff also makes the case that they were entitled to exemption from the 15,000 pay cuts that were imposed on their public service counterparts during the recession, because the IFA's balance sheet remained very healthy throughout the recession, and that private-sector pay actually increased by 4pc on average since 2008.

Several high-ranking IFA officials, including former general secretary Pat Smith, managed to negotiate top-ups on their salaries of up to €35,000 a year from the IFA Telecom unit.

These top-ups were sizeable, but they became even more valuable when they morphed into salary payments that suddenly attracted additional pension payments.

Mr Smith negotiated that €45,000 of his €75,000 bonus be converted into an annual salary payment in 2010, contributing further to the massive €2.7m pension pot that he amassed during his 25 years at the organisation.

Irish Independent

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