Burton's pay-cut pressure on union bosses
Begg silent on his salary level
Published 07/05/2011 | 05:00
LABOUR last night piled the pressure on union leaders to reveal if they have taken pay cuts.
It came as the top union boss in the country, ICTU's David Begg, refused to say if he had taken a cut to his €137,400 salary -- even though hundreds of thousands of members have had to endure serious reductions in their income.
The Irish Independent this week revealed how many public-sector union chiefs were refusing to reveal details of their pay -- and whether they took cuts in line with what their members suffered last year.
In a significant intervention, Labour's Social Protection Minister Joan Burton effectively called on the union leaders to share the pay-cut pain with their members.
Ms Burton heaped pressure on them by suggesting that those who had not taken cuts should "reflect on that" if their salaries were very high.
"I do think it is important in terms of the general overall principle, that everyone in this country has to make sacrifices at this time," she said.
Her comments came after it was revealed that TUI leader Peter McMenamin had not taken a pay cut although his 15,800 members' wages were slashed by the Government in January last year.
This is despite the fact that his pay, on a scale that goes up to €158,844, and that of other union leaders, is directly linked to senior civil servant grades, whose wages were cut.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which represents 600,000 public and private-sector workers, has not revealed whether its leader took a pay cut. It confirmed that General Secretary David Begg's pay is based on the same six-figure pay grade as assistant secretary generals in the civil service.
When pressed, his spokesman would only disclose that his pay is around €137,400, which appears to be the same as he was earning prior to the pay cut in November 2009. He said Mr Begg was not available for comment last night, but suggested pay cuts may now be under consideration.
"We simply cannot comment further on matters that pertain to ongoing negotiations within Congress," said his spokesman.
"Those talks, aimed at addressing costs, began earlier this year and are expected to conclude in the near future."
He said a full report would be made to the Executive Council of the union umbrella body at that stage.
Most of the leaders of the 23 unions with public-sector members who were surveyed volunteered to take pay cuts, because they are not covered by the legislation that slashed their members' pay. They included Shay Cody, leader of the largest dedicated public sector union, IMPACT, with more than 60,000 members.
Many unions, including the PSEU and GRA, said their pay cuts were at the same rate as their members, and in many cases they were taken automatically at the same time.
However, 12 of the 23 unions would not give any details of their leaders' earnings. And seven of these would not reveal whether they had taken pay cuts. They included major unions like the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which has 39,000 members; the Irish Medical Organisation; the Irish Federation of University Teachers; and the Prison Officers Association.
The investigation of leaders' pay was carried out to see if they had cut their public-sector-linked pay in line with their members.
More than 300,000 public-sector workers, who are heavily-unionised, have suffered an average 14pc wage reduction in the last two years.
They took an average 6.2pc pay cut in January last year, following a pension levy that cut a further 7.5pc from salaries.
However, the grade to which Mr McMenamin and Mr Begg are linked -- assistant secretary general -- only took a pay cut of three percent because staff had given up a bonus.
Therefore, union bosses linked to this grade who were willing to take a reduction would have suffered a pay cut well below the average.
General Secretary of the AHCPS Dave Thomas, who would not reveal his own pay, told delegates at the union's annual conference there was no scope for further pay cuts.
Official figures sent to the IMF also showed the public-sector workforce has been cut by 2,000 in the first three months of the year due to an ongoing ban on hiring and incentivised exit schemes.
It was revealed yesterday that up to 300,000 workers on legally binding minimum wages in a variety of sectors, including catering and hairdressing, may face cuts in their pay and conditions.
Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton said the current Employment Regulation Order system was not longer fit for purpose and promised far-reaching reforms by the end of the year.