THE Government has signalled its intent to cut the lucrative salaries of chief executives of commercial semi-state companies like the ESB and CIÉ, but denied it is acting belatedly on the issue.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said he would bring proposals to Cabinet “at an early date” to “review” the pay arrangements for the chief executives.
But the Department of Finance could not provide any further detail last night on when the review might commence or finish.
It means that any move on cutting the six-figure salaries of the chief executives could be several months away.
By stark contrast, the public sector pay cut announced in last week’s budget — including reductions of 5% for the lowest-paid public servants — will take effect from January 1.
Several hundred public servants protested against those pay cuts outside Leinster House last night.
Asked why the administration had not moved months earlier to address the pay of the commercial semi-state chief executives, a Government spokesman replied: “It’s being done now.”
Mr Lenihan announced the review during a debate on the legislation to give effect to the public sector pay cut in the Dáil.
He reiterated that the pay cut would not be applied to the estimated 42,000 workers in the 30 commercial semi-state bodies, which operate without day-to-day interference by the Government.
Mr Lenihan said he did not control the pay of the staff of these bodies, with the exception of the chief executives. But he hinted at the Government’s desire to see the bodies acting of their own accord to cut staff pay.
“While these companies must be allowed to act commercially and in accordance with the normal industrial relations process, the Government is of the view that pay restraint in these companies fulfils a longer-term national interest,” he said. “But it is the market and the regulators that will impose that discipline.”
He stressed that even if the pay cut was applied to these workers, it would have no effect on the overall public service pay bill.
“Pay cuts in the commercial state-sponsored bodies will have no impact on the public service pay bill because the pay of those bodies is funded through their own commercial efforts.”
But he said he remained “concerned” about the pay at top-level posts across the economy, hence the review of the chief executives’ pay.
According to reports earlier this year, the highest paid chief executive of a commercial semi-state is Declan Collier of the Dublin Airport Authority, who earns €575,000. Mr Collier earned €638,000 in 2008 but is understood to have taken a voluntary 10% cut since then.
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