Siptu boss urges politicians to forego pay hikes

Politicians must “refrain” from taking any pay hikes that come as a result of crunch public sector pay talks which begin tomorrow, Siptu’s president has warned.

Jack O’Connor made the demand as he confirmed he will not accept any increase in his €115,000 salary, saying any rises must “prioritise” those on low pay.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin is due to meet with a raft of public sector unions tomorrow to begin talks on a new pay deal for workers who have been repeatedly hit by savage cuts throughout the recession.

In an issue that has received little attention to date, any increase — which is likely to range between 2% and 6% —will also benefit politicians, meaning Taoiseach Enda Kenny (€185,000), senior ministers (€157,540), TDs (€87,258) and senators (€60,539) will be in line for pay hikes.

Mr Howlin last month defended the situation by claiming: “I don’t believe in segregating out particular categories of people” and that politicians have taken cuts of 20%-36% since the crash.

However, speaking to reporters at a Labour Party James Connolly commemoration at Arbour Hill cemetery in Dublin, Mr O’Connor said politicians and senior union figures should turn down any extra income.

“People in public life at that level should refrain from taking pay increases,” the Siptu president warned after being asked to clarify his position a number of times.

“The priority at the moment should be to give effect to the commitments in the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements which entail prioritising people on lower pay,” he said.

While Mr O’Connor is not a public sector worker, his own €115,000 — down from €124,000 — is bench-marked to higher public sector grades.

He also suggested unions will seek to increase the minimum wage to €12.30 an hour through the recently established low pay commission this summer, and said the removal of the pension levy remains a red-line issue.

In a speech during the commemoration, he claimed Labour’s time in power has seen them achieve the current goals of Greek far-left governing party Syriza.

Meanwhile, junior minister Ged Nash told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics the pay talks could see “flat rate” increases instead of those based on percentages.

Flat rates benefit lower paid workers more than percentage rates as every employee would receive the same amount of additional money regardless of the position they hold.

A pay deal is expected to be agreed by June, in time for internal Department of Public Expenditure pre-budget plans.

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