HUNDREDS of senior managers will escape the full brunt of savage pay cuts being applied to ordinary staff in the public service.
special arrangement exempting 150 top civil servants from full pay cuts will also apply to a further 450 senior managers across a string of state bodies, the Irish Independent can reveal.
As ordinary gardai, HSE and local authority workers see their pay slashed, some of their bosses have been told they can keep more of their much larger salaries.
The Department of Finance confirmed yesterday that top pay was being protected.
It said the "exceptional arrangement" for 152 assistant secretaries and deputy secretaries in the civil service will also apply to around another 450 senior public servants.
These include three Deputy Commissioners and 12 Assistant Commissioners in the gardai, senior local authority staff, senior HSE staff and Major Generals and Brigadier Generals in the Defence Forces.
The Government initially said the basic salaries of these senior public servants were being marginally reduced because the pay cuts had been calculated on figures that include a bonus scheme.
But that scheme was scrapped in February last year, meaning the pay cut is being calculated on amounts that no longer apply.
For example, a senior civil servant on €150,712 had a bonus of €15,071 added on to bring his total to €165,783. With a total cut of 11.8pc this seemingly brought his take-home pay down to €146,191. But in reality, with the bonus no longer in existence, the actual cut is only 3pc or €4,521.
In contrast, cleaners in government departments on salaries of €20,000 will suffer a full 5pc pay cut to €19,000.
The 600 senior public servants are the only group so far to avoid having their basic pay cut in line with the recommendations of a high level committee -- which recommended they be given an 8pc pay cut.
The other recommendations of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration -- such as a 20pc cut in salary for Taoiseach Brian Cowen and a 15pc cut for ministers -- were accepted. And most of the 300,000-plus workers in the public sector, including nurses, teachers and gardai, are experiencing wage cuts of between 5pc and 8pc.
It comes as the exchequer returns for 2009, published yesterday, show the grave state of the public finances, with tax returns down and the cost of paying interest on the €75bn national debt rising to €2.5bn.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan this week alluded to the fact that more than senior civil servants were being exempted from the full brunt of the pay cuts by his department. He said the exemption would apply to assistant secretaries "and equivalent grades in other organisations". But the true extent of the exemption has not been revealed until now.
The Director of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby, who is currently leading the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank, is also covered by the special exemption.
Around half of the State's 64 ambassadors will also benefit, as well as some of the specialist parliamentary counsel lawyers who draft bills for the Government. Other senior public servants who qualify for the exemption include the director of the Equality Tribunal, the Data Protection Commissioner and the chairperson of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.
The Department of Finance has estimated that the overall cost to the exchequer of granting the exemption is between €2.5m and €3.5m.
A department spokesman confirmed last night that approximately 600 senior public servants would be exempt from the full brunt of the pay cuts. "They are still taking pay cuts and it is in excess of almost all other public servants," the spokesman said.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said this week that these senior public servants would have been facing a wage cut in excess of Taoiseach Brian Cowen's cut if the full deduction had been applied, due to the loss of their €15-17,000 average bonuses.
Most of the group of 600 senior public sector workers are either working in the civil service or are linked to the "assistant secretary" and "deputy secretary" grades in the civil service. And most were earning between €125,000- €150,000 a year until last month's Budget.
Mr Lenihan said the salaries of assistant secretaries had been found to compare negatively with their counterparts in other countries in a benchmarking exercise by the higher level pay group. But the Review Body on Higher Remuneration backed his decision to suspend the bonus scheme for these senior public servants and still went on to recommend an 8pc pay cut for them.
The Association of Assistant Secretaries and Higher Grades had made a submission on pay rates for its members to the review body. But it could not be contacted for comment yesterday to establish if it had lobbied Mr Lenihan to reduce the recommended 8pc pay cut for its members to 3pc.
The decision to take the bonuses of senior public servants into account was announced late after the Budget by the Department of Finance in a circular letter sent to all government departments.