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Big salaries and pensions of union bosses uncovered

No recession for top brass as company cars and other generous perks are still order of the day

Sixteen months have passed since Labour's Joan Burton called on Ireland's union bosses to reveal if they had taken any pay cuts since the onset of the financial crisis.

Now, with just weeks to go to what several cabinet members have warned will be the "toughest Budget yet", a Sunday Independent investigation has found that six-figure salaries, generous expenses, defined benefit pensions and even "company cars" are still the order of the day for the country's trade union chiefs.

Notwithstanding the universal refusal by 18 unions to disclose the details of their leaders' salaries and benefits, this newspaper has uncovered -- through an extensive trawl of their financial statements, annual reports and other documents -- a host of boom-time baubles even in the face of declining membership numbers.

In a number of cases, the salary packages enjoyed by Irish union leaders outstrip those of their counterparts in the UK, where union membership is many multiples of what it is here. And 10 of the 18 unions contacted by this newspaper failed to respond in any way to our queries.

Based on the information we managed to obtain, all but one union leader was paid more than €100,000 -- with the highest paid receiving a total package of just under €200,000. Almost all are in defined benefit pension schemes run by their employers and many receive substantial additional benefits like a company car, generous expenses and subsistence.

Irish Bank Officials' Association (IBOA) boss Larry Broderick is the highest paid union leader in the country, receiving a total package worth €198,646, according to information gleaned by the Sunday Independent. This includes a basic salary of €132,455 and defined benefit pension contributions in 2011 of €46,359. He also receives an annual car allowance of €12,336 and private medical insurance cover from the VHI worth €7,496. Interestingly, Mr Broderick's salary details were included in documents filed with the UK Certification Officer, but were omitted from the union's latest Irish financial statement, held by the Register of Friendly Societies.

According to those documents, the IBOA -- which had 21,193 members at the end of 2011, a drop of 583 on the previous year -- spent €58,668 on "staff sports and social", up €5,000 on 2010.

Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) boss Sheila Nunan is paid a salary of €153,885, which is linked to the salary of an assistant secretary general in the civil service. Her generous remuneration continues despite a drop in the number of members in the union by 1,249 to 33,482.

Ms Nunan also benefits from a generous defined benefit pension. Her salary is down from the €172,000 paid to her predecessor John Carr in 2008, the last published figure.

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The salary paid to Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) boss David Begg was the focus of a political storm last year when Ms Burton called for union chiefs' salaries to be made public.

Mr Begg refused to say if he had taken a cut to his €137,400 salary -- even though hundreds of thousands of members, particularly in the private sector, have had to endure serious reductions in their income.

We do know that, on top of his salary, Mr Begg is a member of the union's defined benefit pension scheme.

In 2009, he disclosed he had a "company car" from the union. In the same year, he received €32,000 for sitting on the board of Aer Lingus, which went to Ictu.

He also sits on the National Economic and Social Council and is a governor of the Irish Times trust -- for which he received €10,060 in 2009.

Responding to our request for information, an Ictu spokesman said: "The information in question is already in the public domain, both in official Congress reports and carried as recently as April 23, 2012, in a report in the Irish Independent. However, that latter report understated the pay reduction, claiming 8 per cent when the correct figure is 10 per cent."

Jack O'Connor is one the highest profile union leaders in Ireland. His salary was previously confirmed at €124,895. This weekend he said his salary was now reduced to €115,000. Despite a drop of 7,081 Siptu members last year, on top of his generous salary he is a member of the union's defined benefit pension scheme and is entitled to the use of a car.

Figures show the country's biggest trade union splashed out more than €398,000 on cars, resulting in a €1.5m collection of vehicles.

Siptu shelled out €692,706 on conferences in 2011, almost €150,000 more than a year earlier. There was also a €1.5m spend on expenses including transport, travel and subsistence, working out at more than €4,400 per employee.

A sizeable 61 per cent of annual spending went towards €22m in staff costs, although that's well down on the €25m of the previous year. Its administration costs are another €1.1m, cut by €200,000 on 2010's figures.

Dwindling sign-up numbers hit coffers hard, with members' contributions dropping by €1.7m to €36.58m.

It still has a war chest or general fund of more than €18m, up from €16m the previous year. Siptu also blew €267,000 on a trophy copy of the 1916 Proclamation as unemployment soared and the trade union haemorrhaged members. Siptu's documents said the €266,771 was spent on "heritage assets".

A Siptu spokesman said: "In response to your queries we would direct you to the relevant Siptu annual reports and accounts and other information in the public domain."

Pat King, general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI), was another to refuse to disclose his present salary. But we do know the salary for the role in 2009 was €144,000. According to financial statements to the Register of Friendly Societies, the ASTI chief received a salary supplement of €45,228 and additional allowance of €14,361 in 2011.

Executive staff travel expenses of €50,576 were claimed and a further spend of €10,292 on "foreign seminars" was included in the accounts. Asked about Mr King's remuneration specifically, the ASTI said: "This information is published in the ASTI Annual Report and is available to members of the ASTI."

The last known salary of the head of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) was between €131,748 and €150,712 in 2009. Current head John MacGabhann refused to say what his salary is currently, but previously the salary was linked to the salary of an assistant secretary general in the Civil Service. The TUI said the pay scale for general secretary had been cut in 2012, but declined to say by how much.

Mr MacGabhann is a member of the union's defined benefit scheme and has is entitled to the use of a car.

In stark contrast to other organisations, the TUI switched to a defined benefit pension scheme in 2008 at a time when such schemes were being closed down.

Some of the more interesting items of spending to show up in the accounts include gardening expenses of €4,480, up from previous year, the union's congress dinner cost €17,000 while other refreshments amounted to €3,598. There was a golf expense totalling €2,087 while committee expenses including travel and accommodation amounted to €24,532 up from €19,564 the previous year.

The Impact union is one of the more interesting cases. Consternation was caused in 2009 when it emerged that the then head of the union, Peter McLoone, was being paid a salary €171,313.

The Sunday Independent has established that the salary being paid to Shay Cody, the current head of Impact, is €162,062 -- the same salary as the Cork county manager.

According to the latest biennial report, Mr Cody waived an additional portion of his salary upon his appointment. The report did not specify the amount.

Mr Cody is a member of the union's defined benefit scheme but it is Impact's cash position that is of most interest. According to its latest financial statement, Impact has €13.9m on deposit in the bank and a "dispute fund" totalling €30.9m. The union had 89 employees last year and spent €5.5m on salaries and wages.

Officer travel expenses amounted to €26,722, and travel to conferences amounted to €70,000. In total, staff travel and subsistence during 2011 amounted to €312,283, work mobile telephone bills came to €44,000 while landline phones cost €53,000.

The cost of running Impact union conferences came to €110,000, while divisional meetings cost €88,000. A further €35,000 went toward Ictu meetings and "other meetings" cost €60,000.

It also spent €5,400 on media monitoring.

Impact, according to its documents, is procuring premises in Sligo and Limerick, with deposits in place for both.

A spokesman for Impact said: "Information about Impact membership numbers and officials' pay is in the public domain (although I don't think the same can be said of senior media executives) and has frequently been reported in INM titles."

Eoin Ronayne, a former journalist, has taken over from Blair Horan at the helm of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU).

In 2009, the general secretary post attracted a salary of about €120,000. Apart from his generous salary, Mr Ronayne is a member of the union's defined benefit scheme.

According to its accounts, all CPSU members get dental benefits which cost the union €242,000 in 2011. They also got optical benefits totalling €218,000, contributions toward cancer screening, hospital benefits of €31,000 and mortality benefits €22,000, as well as costs towards alternative medicine amounting to €10,000.

In response to our queries, a CPSU spokeswoman said: "The CPSU produces audited accounts annually which include the details you are seeking. The Annual Accounts are discussed in some detail by the financial secretary with our 400 or so delegates to our Annual Delegate Conference each year in April."

Another interesting case is the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which is headed by Liam Doran. The statements of the organisation reveal some incredible spending.

Last year, travel expenses for officers amounted to €257,322, while overseas expenses amounted separately to €49,674.

While Mr Doran refused to disclose his own salary, financial statements relating to staff costs show the average salary within the union is €64,000.

The hiring of hotel rooms in 2011 came to €5,886, the cost of changing the union's name from the INO to the INMO cost €3,754 in 2010. Taxis and couriers amounted to €16,000 and media training came to €22,000.

The cost of the annual delegate meeting really stands out, however. The get together cost a staggering €192,000, way above the cost for similar gatherings in other unions. It also spent €174,102 on a "professional development centre", €241,000 on office equipment and €8,573 on badges in 2010, the figures reveal.

Jimmy Kelly, the all-Ireland organiser for the UK-based union Unite received a salary in 2009 of €67,000 and is the only union leader to be paid less than €100,000 based on available information. Mr Kelly did not respond to our request for details of his current salary.

Danny McCoy of Ibec refused to disclose his salary details and they did not feature in financial statements to the Register of Friendly Societies, which were lodged this year.

Others who have refused to disclose their salary details are John Douglas of Mandate; Eamon Devoy of the TEEU; Stephen Fitzpatrick of the Communications Workers Union and George McNiece of the Irish Medical Organisation.

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