THE prospect of the Croke Park deal being backed by public servants has been dealt a major blow due to "paltry" cuts to top politicians' pensions.
State employees earning over €65,000 a year face cuts of up to 10pc in their pay, but the highest cut for retired staff is just 5pc.
Unions were led to believe that the cuts to the best-paid pensioners, including former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, would be much deeper.
Brendan Howlin's Department of Public Expenditure and Reform argued that those on pensions over €32,500 will take cuts that are roughly half the pay cuts being suffered by staff. This is because their pensions are worth half their final pay.
But former senior politicians, and civil servants like Dermot McCarthy, whose €713,000 retirement package caused outrage, enjoy much bigger pensions than current staff will get.
This is because they retired before pensions were hit by cuts to reflect a previous public sector pay cut, which came into force after February last year.
Unions were promised there would be a substantial cut for the top pensioners. They believed this would help them sell the new deal to members.
The pension cuts, which will reduce Mr Ahern and Mr Cowen's €150,000-plus pensions by €7,500, were revealed by government officials on Tuesday night. They said it would "mirror" the pay cut.
They said the cuts would be in the region of 2pc to 5pc on salaries over €32,500, with the 5pc cut expected to apply to pensions over €100,000.
The extent of the pension cuts is not mentioned in the final document outlining the proposed new Croke Park deal, although they are promised.
It says the Government intends to "align" the pension reduction with the pay cut applied to serving staff. It adds the measure will apply to pensions greater than €32,500.
"Public servants think this minor adjustment to pensions in no way reflects what's happening on the ground," said CPSU leader, Eoin Ronayne.
"This is not a big hit. It's small beer for people on the big pensions. Our guys can only look on in envy at people on pensions of €32,500 or more. The measure is insulting to people on low pay. It is offensive."
He said the only acceptable cut to a pension of over €150,000 would be in the region of €20,000.
Other union leaders were reluctant to publicly condemn the pension cuts, but admitted they were "miffed".
"This is an issue of fairness," said a senior source. "Top politicians and civil servants are taking minimal pain on pre-austerity pension deals. It was clearly indicated to the negotiators that they would face a big hit, but these are paltry cuts."
A key union negotiator also told the Irish Independent they believed the pension cut at the top would be "much steeper".
General Secretary ofThe Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants, Dave Thomas, said he had been contacted by members who want to know exactly what pension cuts will apply, but the department has not formally issued details.
The union, which traditionally backs national agreements, has recommended a 'no' vote on the Croke Park deal to members.
It represents over 2,700 higher-paid civil servants who face pay cuts as well as a three-year increment freeze, as they earn more than €65,000 a year.
The Department of Public Expenditure said the thresholds at which the pension cuts would apply had not been decided.
It previously introduced a 20pc tax on pensions over €100,000, but those with multiple pensions avoided the cut if their individual pensions were worth less than this.
Former ministers, including Charlie McCreevy, Dermot Ahern, John O'Donoghue and Mary Harney, escaped the tax because of the loophole.