Cowen says he is 'powerless' to stop Anglo pay hikes
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen yesterday claimed the Government is powerless to block pay rises at nationalised Anglo Irish Bank because they are being given to low-ranking staff.
The bailed-out bank is about the reveal the biggest losses in Irish corporate history in the coming weeks.
Mr Cowen said pay levels for regular staff -- which emerged on RTE's 'Prime Time' -- were a matter for the board and management at the bank. The Government only has the power to stop pay rises when they are being made at a senior level.
He said the pay rises were being made to more than 70 information technology staff, who were taking on extra responsibilities as a result of the reductions in personnel numbers.
"We need people in that bank to do the job," he said.
The Taoiseach insisted pay at ordinary levels in the bank was determined by the management.
Mr Cowen repeatedly referred to the explanation provided by Anglo chairman Alan Dukes that the changes to salary levels were due to downsizing.
Mr Dukes said 78 employees were awarded salary increases for taking on extra responsibilities after a voluntary redundancy programme, which laid off 260 people.
But Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny insisted the Government had the power to stop the pay rises and the public could not stand by and take bailed-out Anglo workers getting pay hikes.
"This can not be justified," he said. "It goes to the very heart of the lack of fairness in this society, in this Ireland."
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said the Government owned the bank and the taxpayer would again be expected to bail it out.
"This is the zombie bank that is the rotten apple at the heart of what happened in the Irish banking system," he said.
"It has given rise to the collapse in our economy, for which people up and down this country have been paying for the past 18 months with their jobs, their pay packets, their living standards and the quality of services being produced. This is not a matter for the management or board of the bank, this is a matter for the Government, because it owns it."
Labour Relations Committee chief executive Kieran Mulvey condemned the pay rises.
He said the announcement "completely lacks any sensitivity in the context of the current economic circumstances".
And he warned the move would create a more difficult atmosphere to achieve agreement on pay at talks between the Government and public sector unions.