Wednesday 19 June 2019

'I'm alright Jack' union chiefs live the high life

DANIEL McCONNELL and RONALD QUINLAN AN EXClusive special investigation

l Bank union boss enjoys €200,000 package l Teachers' union boss on €153,884 basic salary l Perks of pensions, cars and health insurance

TRADE union leaders have recession-proofed themselves with six-figure salaries, generous perks and expenses, far in excess of the workers they represent, a Sunday Independent investigation can reveal.

Despite falling membership numbers and the deepening economic crisis, the country's leading union bosses have for the most part managed to retain their boom-time pay and benefits.

With only weeks to go to what several cabinet ministers have warned will be the "toughest Budget yet", our examination of 18 of the largest and most powerful trade unions throws a startling light on the gulf between union leaders and the people they claim to represent.

The revelations come as it also emerges today that 2,500 public servants are being paid over €150,000 a year -- an increase of 185 on those who received that amount in 2011.

A Red C Poll for the Sunday Business Post said two-thirds (66 per cent) want the Croke Park Agreement reviewed with a view to pay cuts.

Last night, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member and Government TD Simon Harris hit out at "militant union bosses", accusing them of "living on another planet" in terms of their salaries.

He said: "Union leaders are still living in the land of Bertie Ahern economics. They have some neck to criticise politicians about being out of touch, given the salaries many of them are on."

Mr Harris said that some of the union chiefs included in our list were responsible for the "ruination" of the country as a result of their roles in social partnership.

ANALYSIS PAGE 4

"They are living on a different planet. I speak to ordinary members of the public sector and they are being let down by their overly militant leaders. Let's remember that some of these guys did secret deals with Bertie Ahern during the bad days of social partnership that ruined this country."

Responding to Mr Harris's comments, Siptu general president Jack O'Connor said: "I never agreed with the term (social partnership). I never met FitzPatrick or Mr Fingleton at any of the social-partnership engagements. Nor did I meet any of the people who drove the banking system over the edge."

A clearly irritated Mr O'Connor added: "You're engaged in a lynching exercise. I'm not refusing to answer your questions, but I do regard it as impertinent in the extreme to expect the victim to participate in the erection of the scaffold."

He confirmed his current salary as being €115,000, down from the €124,000 that he received in 2009. Mr O'Connor added that his union was currently in the process of restructuring its own pension scheme, saying this would see serving employees suffer a 40 per cent reduction in their pension entitlements.

The Siptu chief was the only union leader out of 18 contacted by the Sunday Independent to confirm his salary.

He also hit back at Mr Harris, whom he described as a "wealthy man," calling on him to make a similar gesture by taking a cut to his own pension entitlement.

"In his case, it would be small change," he said.

An extensive trawl through the financial statements, annual reports of the trade unions and other publicly available documents has revealed:

• Irish Bank Officials Association boss Larry Broderick is -- according to information available -- the highest-paid union leader in the country, receiving a total package worth €198,646,

This includes a basic salary of €132,455 and defined benefit pension contributions in 2011 of €46,359. He also receives a yearly car allowance of €12,336 and private medical insurance cover from the VHI worth €7,496 in 2011 alone.

Interestingly, Mr Broderick's salary details were only 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.

• Irish National Teachers' Organisation boss Sheila Nunan is paid €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.

She 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.

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

This is about €9,000 lower than the 2009 salary that was paid to his predecessor Peter McLoone. 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.

Of all the union leaders whose salary details we obtained, only Jimmy Kelly of Unite received remuneration of less than €100,000.

The latest available figure for Mr Kelly shows he received pay of €67,000 in 2009.

Full Report, Page 4

Sunday Independent

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