State spares 655 senior public servants from €7,600 cut in pay
SENIOR public servants will be spared a pay cut of about €7,600 under the Government's decision to exempt them from the brunt of salary reductions.
The extent of the savings was revealed yesterday as Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the controversial move would result in a loss of less than €5m for the already strained public purse.
Mr Cowen revealed 655 high-ranking officials would benefit from the move, in contrast to the initial tally of 160.
The figures come in the midst of anger at the proposal from lower paid public servants and some Fianna Fail backbenchers.
The Review Body on Higher Remuneration had recommended the officials face full pay cuts of 8pc-12pc.
However, the Government insisted they should be allowed to escape with a 3pc cut in salary because of the loss of a lucrative bonus scheme. This was despite the fact that the review body had taken this bonus into account when calculating how much their pay should be cut.
Mr Cowen attempted to defend the cost of the move, insisting it was small in comparison with the total pay-bill spend.
"I understand the figure is less than €5m, but I will obtain that information for the deputy. It is on a (total) spend of €20bn," Mr Cowen said.
"From memory, the numbers are in the order of 655."
Based on Mr Cowen's figures, the cost of the exemption is about €7,600 for each official.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was later forced to explain the rationale behind the exemption. Mr Lenihan pointed out that performance-related pay, while not part of the basic salary of those involved, had formed part of their remuneration package since 2001.
This was on foot of a recommendation by the review body on higher remuneration, which advised that 10pc of the bill be set aside for bonus payments.
The average payment for individuals was 10pc of salary, but it was decided the scheme would be terminated last year.
"It is not the case that the reduction for the grades in question is less than for other grades," he said.
"In applying the recent reductions in pay, the Government considered that account had to be taken of the reduction in remuneration for assistant secretaries, deputy secretaries and related grades arising from the termination of the scheme of performance-related pay.
"In plain language, we decided to look cumulatively at the losses suffered by public servants in 2009."
Mr Lenihan argued that if this had not been done, the total reduction in remuneration for the officials would have been greater than that incurred by a secretary general or above. This would have been "particularly unfair" as the review body had noted that their salaries were broadly similar or lower to their counterparts in other countries.