FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan has defended the Government's decision to allow some senior civil servants take less of a percentage pay cut than cleaners in government departments.
The pay cut announced in December's Budget was calculated for 150 assistant secretaries on a figure that included a bonus scheme, and not on their basic salary of up to €146,000 each.
But Mr Lenihan yesterday insisted these civil servants already had their bonuses scrapped and had taken enough punishment.
Details of the decision to calculate the pay cut on the inflated figure emerged in a circular sent to government departments on December 22.
Cleaners who earn less than €23,000 have been cut 5pc, while civil servants at the third-highest level are down just 3pc.
"The full impact of the abolition of bonuses and the full impact of the recent cut would have left them more disadvantaged than any other public servant," he explained.
"This grade was found not to be paid more than in any other country and a reduction has been imposed upon them. They're not paid overtime for any additional work they do. The Government took the decision that an exception should be made," Mr Lenihan said.
The move has infuriated lower-paid civil servants and members of the gardai.
Civil and Public Service Union (CPSU) general secretary, Blair Horan, said the move meant that the Government will have to deal with "even angrier, lower-paid civil servants".
"The emails we have received prove that people are very angry. It is grossly unfair and it will add to the upheaval," Mr Horan said.
The executive of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) will meet next week to consider its response.
AGSI general secretary Joe Dirwan accused the Government of making a "highly principled and well-publicised move to introduce pay cuts across the public service in the Budget and then sneaked in this U-turn to conciliate a highly privileged group before Christmas".