Sunday 21 January 2018

Politicians will get pay hikes along with public sector

Brendan Howlin
Brendan Howlin
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Ministers, TDs and senators could be in line for pay hikes in next year's budget, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has revealed.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Howlin signalled pay increases for all politicians would be on the table as the Government moved to reverse cuts imposed during the recession.

Mr Howlin said everyone, including politicians, should be treated equally as the economic recovery allows more spending and tax cuts.

"Ministers, politicians or anybody else - I've always said that we are not going to segregate out people," he said.

"There is the appropriate rate of pay for whatever line of work you're in and people on that pay grade should get whatever pay rises are going.

"I don't believe in segregating out particular categories of people."

A TD's salary has been cut by 20pc in the past six years and officers holders earn €87,258 a year. However, they also receive an average of €34,000 a year in expenses. Senators have seen their salaries drop by almost 14pc to €60,539 since 2009, but also make an average of €29,000 each in expenses.

Senior ministers earn €157,540, which is down 36pc since they were paid €225,196 under the previous Fianna-Fáil-led Government, while ministers of state get €121,639. Both senior and junior ministers also receive expenses.

A minister is paid an additional payment on top of their TD salary when they become an office holder. TDs and senators, along with all public sector workers, received salary cuts under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Fempi) Act 2009.

Mr Howlin said he would soon begin unwinding the legislation that imposed public sector pay cuts and pension cuts but warned that wage increases would be gradual rather than immediate.

"It would be prudent to prepare for the unwinding of Fempi rather than allow it lapse because that would be a jolt the economy wouldn't survive," he said.

"I want to negotiate the unwinding of Fempi over time and obviously I have my own views how to do that and I will come to the table with those and present them to the public sector unions," he said.

He said his focus will be restoring pay for the lowest-paid workers who were hit worst during the recession.

He will bring proposals to Cabinet this week on unwinding the legislation.

Mr Howlin will soon meet the public sector unions to begin pay talks ahead of the Haddington Road Agreement coming to an end next year. The 'Sunday Independent' yesterday reported that the country's 290,000 are in line for pay increase of at least 2pc, which could be signed off on by Government by July.

Tánaiste Joan Burton paid tribute to the public sector workers who endured more than €3bn in cuts throughout the years of austerity budgets.

Ms Burton said it was "right and appropriate" that talks begin on restoring pay, but warned against raised expectation on what will be agreed.

"I think it would be wrong to create false and excessive expectations. We are in recovery but we need to have sustainable recovery and make that recovery stronger.

"Any money spent will be carefully spent," she said.

The Tánaiste said she hoped Mr Howlin would begin talks with the unions next month.

"As we move to the recovery and the economy is out of its emergency phase there is a need to renegotiate in relation to the next phase of our life," she said.

Irish Independent

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