Friday 19 January 2018

Coillte chief sticks to his €297,000 salary despite pay-cut plea

Grainne Cunningham

THE forestry agency Coillte, which paid its chief executive €473,000 last year, is the only semi-state agency to resist the Government's request for a 15pc cut in top pay, it has emerged.

David Gunning's basic annual salary remains unchanged at €297,024, despite Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin appealing last June to commercial semi-state CEOs to take the 15pc cut if their salary was above €250,000.

Last year, Mr Gunning was paid €473,000, including a €56,435 performance-related bonus, deferred from 2008, despite a request from former Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith that the bonus payment not go ahead.

The remainder of Mr Gunning's pay package last year was made up of €74,000 in pension contributions and €33,000 in taxable benefits.

He was appointed chief of Coillte almost six years ago and has just one more year of a seven-year contract to run.

Of the eight agencies which came in above the €250,000 ceiling, seven have taken the 15pc reduction, including An Post, the National Roads Authority, Bord Gais, the Irish Aviation Authority, the ESB, Iarnrod Eireann and the Dublin Airport Authority.

In December last year, the then Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced that the state sector's highest paid employees would not earn more than €250,000.

However, the newly appointed chief executive of the ESB Pat O'Doherty is being paid €318,083. When he was appointed in October, the Department of Finance rejected claims that the new ESB CEO's salary was in breach of its own pay limits.

The department said Mr Howlin had introduced "updated pay caps". Mr O'Doherty's position is the only one which attracts a salary in excess of the €250,000 limit proposed by Mr Lenihan, followed at some distance by €240,448, the basic salary set for the next chief of An Post.

Under the new guidelines, Mr Gunning's replacement will earn a basic salary of €191,014.

Even if Mr Gunning agreed to the 15pc reduction, his basic salary would remain just in excess of €250,000. In a statement, Coillte said: "No decision has been taken to date in respect of the voluntary waiver."

But Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath said that, given the "serious difficulties facing the country", Mr Gunning should at least accept the 15pc reduction the Government has asked him to take. Earlier this year, Mr Gunning said he would not accept the performance-related bonus due to him for 2010.

In its annual report for 2010, Coillte posted profits of €32.1m, up from €4.2m in 2009. This figure was boosted by a one-off €25m gain from the sale of harvesting rights to part of its forests.

Irish Independent

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