Returning from the depths of south-west France, where Irish news rarely merits a mention in the newspaper, there is always the vain hope that the world might have changed during the holidays. Sadly, the hope was this year again unfulfilled.
Monday’s Irish Times reported that salaries of Irish TDs were rising to six figures:
TDs WILL receive a pay rise of some €2,500 a year today under the final phase of the current national pay agreement. It will bring the basic salary to more than €100,000.
The Taoiseach’s pay will go up by almost €7,000 a year while senior civil servants and judges will get similar increases under the final 2.5 per cent phase of Sustaining Progress.
All public servants will benefit from the 2.5 per cent award and it will also apply to public service pensions.
The Government recently deferred the implementation of a special pay award of €38,000 for the Taoiseach and €25,000 for Ministers which would have been paid in addition to the national pay rounds.
After the pay rise a backbench TD with less than seven year’s experience will earn a basic €100,189 a year. Those with between seven and 10 years service will see their salaries rise to €103,389, while backbenchers with more than 10 years in the Dáil will get €106,567.
The Government waits until two days after the pay rises have been implemented to admit that it has allowed the public finances so slip into such a parlous state that the budget has to be brought forward. RTE reports:
The Government has decided to introduce next year’s Budget six weeks early.
It will be released on 14 October in response to the economic challenges facing the State’s finances.
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said he would use the early introduction of the Budget to set out the steps he proposes to stabilise and restore balance to the public finances.
He said this would include prioritising current and capital spending to reflect ‘the changed realities’.
Public sector pay during the boom years was shaped by a process called “benchmarking”, though it was never quite clear, in many cases, from where the benchmarks were derived. If TDs are benchmarked against private sector employees, wouldn’t it be appropriate that they should be subject to terms similar to those in the private sector, including a slimming down of the workforce and, if necessary, a programme of statutory redundancies?
Of course, the Opposition could, as a matter of principle, refuse to accept the pay increases.