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3,000 State staff so low paid they get FIS benefits

ALMOST 3,000 workers in the public sector need Family Income Supplement (FIS) because they are so poorly paid.

The findings of the Department of Social Protection contrast with recent claims that some State workers are among the highest paid in the world.

The earlier findings by the National Competitiveness Council and Forfas showed that public sector workers such as doctors, nurses and teachers earned twice the salary of their German equivalents.

Yet, according to Social Protection, there are 2,855 public sector workers using the FIS scheme. That is 11pc of the 27,000 beneficiaries throughout the country.

Some of the State employees using the scheme are fire fighters, road workers and HSE staff.

Meanwhile thousands of other workers -- both in the private and public sector -- have not claimed their benefits, although they are eligible. It is now believed that there is around €100m in unclaimed benefits.

A total of 25,963 people received the extra payment last year, coming to €167m.

The large gap between public sector workers earning above €500,000 a year and those forced to survive on additional benefits shows a lack of Government concern, it was claimed.

Kathleen Lynch, TD for Cork North Central, said: "Some public sector workers are handsomely paid, earning half a million plus, along with secondary benefits like cars and the use of credit cards.

"This contrasts sharply with the people who do the dirty work for us, like sweeping the streets, or those we meet in times of crisis, like ambulance drivers and fire fighters.

"The criteria for the scheme is simple, you either qualify or you don't. The Government knows exactly how much these employees are earning, yet never so much as suggest to them that they might be eligible. The attitude seems to be that if you know about the scheme and apply for it, you may get it but if you don't, tough luck."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection explained that although the Government knew what employees earned, the scheme was based on family income and the State might not always know the income of a partner.