Saturday 19 August 2017

Coillte boss finally accepts 15pc cut to €297,000 salary

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

THE head of the state forestry agency yesterday bowed to pressure from the Government to accept a pay cut of almost €45,000.

Coillte CEO David Gunning was the only chief executive of a semi-state agency earning more than €250,000 who had failed to sign up to the pay reduction until his decision yesterday.

Mr Gunning had continued to be paid based on his annual salary of €297,000; however, his pay will now be slashed by 15pc.

He was criticised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte at the weekend for not signing up to a reduced salary at a time of national crisis.

However, Coillte issued a statement late yesterday evening to say that Mr Gunning had advised the chairman of the company's board that "he will voluntarily waive 15pc of his salary as requested by the Government".

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has been advised of the decision.

The statement said Mr Gunning had not refused the cut but was considering it for some time.

"At no stage did the chief executive decline to accept the proposed voluntary waiver. Coillte has consistently indicated that no decision had previously been made on the matter, which has been under consideration for some time," added the statement.

The Irish Independent called to Mr Gunning's workplace in Newtownmountkennedy in Co Wicklow yesterday. However, there was no sign of him.

When asked about Mr Gunning's whereabouts, the newspaper was told that he was "in meetings all day". Employees did not specify where the meetings were taking place.

A Coillte spokesperson explained that Mr Gunning's position had not changed -- and that "no decision has been taken" on the Government's request to accept the pay reduction. However, the statement was issued some hours later confirming his decision had been made.

Voluntary

The Government had been unable to force Mr Gunning to accept a lower salary because of legal and contractual issues. It could only be done on a voluntary basis.

Salary levels for commercial state company chief executives who are appointed in the future are capped at €250,000 -- with the exception of the ESB.

Mr Gunning has spent 20 years in the technology and telecoms sector and has held positions with blue-chip organisations including Tellabs and Hewlett Packard. He has worked in Ireland, the UK, Finland and the US.

He was also a director with the statutory body responsible for the regulation of the electronic communications sector, Comreg, for three years from 2003 to 2006.

On his LinkedIn profile, Mr Gunning states: "Coillte today is significantly different to the company it was when I was appointed over five years ago."

He says that the company's updated strategy is "to leverage its expertise in four business areas: forests, land, panel products (OSM and MDF) and renewable energy".

He credits himself with growing overall revenues, exiting a "number of underperforming businesses" and achieving "reductions in our cost base to make Coillte more competitive".

"Enhancing shareholder value is our primary objective and we have a clear plan on how we are delivering on this," he states.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News