News Irish News

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Cleaners face deeper wage cut than top civil servants

Michael Brennan

CLEANERS in government departments are facing a higher percentage cut in their basic pay than some of the country's most senior civil servants.

According to Department of Finance figures, the standard salary for cleaners has been cut by 5pc and now ranges from €19,799 at entry level to €22,987.64 after six years of "satisfactory service".

Yet the civil servants at the third highest grade -- assistant secretaries -- are being cut by as little as 3pc. There are 150 assistant secretaries, with salaries of up to €146,000 each.

Deputy secretaries, who represent the second highest grade, took a pay cut of 5.4pc. But this is a smaller percentage than that experienced by a teacher on a €50,000 salary (6pc). There are two deputy secretaries employed at salaries of up to €168,000 each.


The basic salaries of these 152 senior civil servants have been only marginally reduced because the pay cuts have been calculated on figures that include a bonus scheme that was scrapped last year, rather than on basic salary alone.

It comes as most of the State's 300,000-plus public sector staff will have their pay cut by an average of 5-8pc from January.

Last night, a Department of Finance spokesman said the assistant secretaries and deputy secretaries had been part of a performance bonus scheme which delivered annual payments of up to €17,000 each. He pointed out that if the standard public sector pay cut was imposed, their wages would have dropped by up to 22pc.

"This was not judged to have been fair," he said.

The decision to take the bonuses of senior civil servants into account was announced late last month (after the Budget) by the Department of Finance in a circular letter sent to all Government departments.

The "performance-related awards" system was set up for assistant secretaries and deputy secretaries in 2002. The 2007 bonus awards for this group cost about €2.7m -- an average of around €17,763 each.

To qualify, the senior civil servants had to set their own targets in "three key areas". They then had to assess their own performance in a report at the end of the year. This was sent on to the head of their government department and a group known as the Committee for Performance Awards. In 2008, more than 91pc of these civil servants got bonuses ranging from 5pc to 15pc -- with the remainder getting less than 5pc.

But in February last year, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced that the scheme was being discontinued.

"No specific funding has been set aside in 2009 in respect of performance in 2008," he said.

Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton said there was no justification for exempting senior civil servants from the pain that the rest of the public sector was being forced to bear.

Mr Bruton described their exemption as "manifestly wrong", given that public servants earning as little as the minimum wage were being asked to take a 5pc salary cut.

Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton also attacked the move, saying that she intends to challenge the legality of the move when the Dail returns on January 19.

She said the department circular was not made available when legislation implementing the pay cuts was forced through the Oireachtas last month.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News