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Monday 22 September 2014

Civil servants given €1.4bn in pay rises since collapse

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

Published 03/06/2014 | 02:30

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Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

PUBLIC sector workers have received more than €1.4bn in incremental or length-of-service pay rises since the recession began in 2007.

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Amid the huge controversy caused by the review of discretionary medical cards, it has emerged that some of the highest earners in the public service retained their increments.

Last year's Haddington Road deal did not abolish such payments but merely delayed them for higher earners. They will ultimately be paid in full.

Figures obtained show that 1,362 senior public officials, including politically appointed government advisers and spin doctors, some of whom are on more than €100,000 a year, received increments last year, despite their high salaries.

Although the Government continued to borrow more than €1bn a month to run the country, length-of-service pay increases continued across all departments, agencies and organisations in the public sector throughout the duration of the economic collapse.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has repeatedly defended the paying of such increases because they are the norm in public service internationally.

Today's revelations appear to contradict the previously stated arguments put forward by Mr Howlin that removing increments would "disproportionately affect lower paid staff".

Last year, 11,280 civil servants, including more than the 1,300 earning €65,000-plus, received increases under the increments scheme at a total cost of €16.5m.

Of the 11,280, less than half (45pc) earn €35,000 or lower.

The continued payment of increments has been heavily criticised by economists and public sector expert consultants, including Eddie Molloy.

"The bottom line was that people so disposed could settle into a lifestyle of mediocre performance, accumulating annual increments automatically, taking all their sick-leave entitlement and just time-serving until a comfortable retirement and there was nothing their boss could do about it," Mr Molloy said.

The figures show that some civil servants received annual wage rises of up to €2,400 for long service.

For each of the years 2007 to 2011, the department said the total cost of increments across the entire public sector was €1.25bn, or €250m a year.

That figure fell to €150m in 2013 due to mass retirements from the system and some State employees hitting the top end of the salary scales.

A freezing of increments had been proposed as part of the recent talks in the formation of the Haddington Road deal, but the proposal was dropped in favour of simply delaying the pay hikes, which will still be paid in full.

The gross public sector pay and pensions bill last year was €18.4bn.

Several CSO reports have shown that since the crash, the disparity between public and private sector pay has widened in favour of state employees.

Irish Independent

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