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Top academics snub Quinn pay cut plea


SEVEN of the country’s top academics have snubbed a request from Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to cut their pay to €200,000 – equal to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s salary.

The Irish Independent has learned that only one academic has taken a voluntary pay cut, with two refusing Mr Quinn’s request outright.

A further five have yet to respond to the Department of Education – despite being written to by Mr Quinn last July, and again by his secretary general, Brigid McManus, in October.

But the Department of Education or the Higher Education Authority could not say last night who had refused or ignored Mr Quinn’s request.

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin has capped salaries across the public sector at €200,000, and €250,000 for semi-state bosses,

Following on from this, Mr Quinn asked high earners in the third-level sector to voluntarily bring their salaries down to €200,000, since the cuts cannot be brought in for those currently in posts.

The Dublin South-East TD's own salary is €169,000, and details of the replies to his request come amid continuing controversy over increases in college registration fees and arguments over state funding for the third-level sector.

It also comes amid public anger over wider education cuts, including severe reductions in funding for disadvantaged primary schools -- which Mr Quinn is now reviewing.

Mr Quinn's department could not provide any details of who those not taking the cut were.

But he recently confirmed that of the 99 employees in the higher education sector receiving more than €200,000 a year, 89 were academic medical consultants -- the majority of whom are paid jointly by the HSE and their university employers.

In total, 191 people in third level are earning more than €150,000.

A spokesperson for the department said: "Excluding academic medical consultants, there are currently eight university employees on annual remuneration over €200,000.

"The minister wrote to the chairpersons of the seven universities on July 22, 2011, setting out the Government's decision to apply a pay ceiling for future appointments to senior posts across the public service and for chief executive officers of commercial state companies, and the government decision that current incumbents of such positions whose current salary is in excess of the relevant pay ceilings would be requested to make a voluntary waiver of salary of 15pc."

The cuts could be by a lesser amount if it brought total salary down to €200,000.

Two universities wrote back to the minister saying they did not have anyone over the €200,000 threshold, but the department could not say what universities they were.

Ms McManus then wrote to the other five universities at the end of October "setting out the various waiver options for consideration by the relevant individuals".

"To date, three of these eight individuals have responded with one indicating an intention to make a voluntary waiver of a portion of salary and two declining to make a voluntary waiver."

The latest row follows controversy over semi-state pay, with Mr Howlin asking all bosses to also take a 15pc cut where their salary was more than €250,000.

Eight came in at more than €250,000 -- An Post, the National Roads Authority, Bord Gais, the Irish Aviation Authority, the ESB, Iarnrod Eireann, the Dublin Airport Authority, and Coillte.

Coillte CEO David Gunning was the last to bow to pressure from the Government, agreeing to have his €297,000 salary slashed by almost €45,000.

Irish Independent