Monday 19 February 2018

Representatives refuse to hand back state-board fees

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Union and employer representatives are still getting thousands of euro in state board fees -- despite Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin giving them the chance to hand the cash back to the taxpayer.

Those still getting fees include former senator and teachers' union chief Joe O'Toole, former FAS chairman Peter McLoone -- also a former union chief -- and Brendan McGinty, from employers' body IBEC.

Among the boards paying fees of as much as €13,000 to the union and employers' groups are the Equality Authority, the Health and Safety Authority, the Pensions Board and the training body Skillsnet.

Many of the union and employers' representatives were put on state boards as part of the now defunct social partnership process. Around 30 are drawing annual fees of up to €12,000.

The boards sit a number of times a year and most pay their members' travel expenses.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has six of its staff members on state boards, as well as nominating people who do not work for the union to other boards.

ICTU said the staff members do not personally benefit from their appointments. The money is paid over by the taxpayer and is ploughed back into union coffers.

Those nominated by ICTU, but who are not staff members -- such as Mr O'Toole, can keep the fees.

ICTU has said it is considering Mr Howlin's request, but it has been left trailing by another union, SIPTU, which has agreed to entirely waive fees.

For example, SIPTU's Rachel Ryan sits on the injuries board but does not take the €11,970, either for herself or the union.

"The question of waiving fees is under consideration within congress," an ICTU spokesman said. "This is taking place in the context of a major process of change and reform across the public sector."

Mr O'Toole last night told the Irish Independent he had spoken to Mr Howlin -- but would not be waiving his fees.

He sits on both the Injuries Board, which pays €11,970 a year, and the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority, worth €5,985 annually. This comes on top of his taxpayer-funded Seanad pension worth €40,000 a year.

Nominee

Mr McLoone sits on the Labour Relations Commission as a union nominee, alongside Mr McGinty, an IBEC nominee, and they both get paid €11,970.

IBEC said it is up to the individual person to decide whether they want to pocket the cash. It has five staff members on boards, but nominates others who are not staff.

Mr McGinty last night refused to say if he personally took the fees.

It was unclear last night if Mr McLoone takes the fees personally, or gives them back to a union.

Other IBEC staff members sitting on boards and drawing fees include Marion Byron from the Health and Safety Authority, Marie Daly on the Auditing and Accounting Authority, Fergal O'Brien on the National Statistics Board and Rhona Murphy on the Equality Authority.

A spokeswoman for Mr Howlin last night insisted the minister gave all board members the chance to gift the money back to the taxpayer.

Other lobby groups with representatives sitting on boards include the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) and the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).

Irish Independent

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