Semi-state salaries - Executives’ pay beyondour means

THERE have been suggestions that the recession is over, but it is very hard to find anyone in business or on the street who believes this, other than those who ridiculed the suggestion that we were heading for a crash in the first place.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan promised last December that he would bring proposals to Cabinet to review pay arrangements for chief executives of semi-state companies “at an early date.” The promise was made in the midst of mounting anger over the mandatory 5% cut to the pay of the lowest-ranking civil servants, while the salaries of those in the highest-paid ranks of the semi-state sector were being left untouched.

The chief executives of the semi-state bodies were exempted from the public service pay-cuts, along with their estimated 42,000 workers, because those companies are supposed to operate on a commercial basis without Government interference. Their salaries are effectively funded through the company’s commercial basis and, therefore, supposedly do not have a direct impact on the public service pay bill.

That is largely a delusion, because the people of this country are paying, one way or another. The minister said there was a need for review, as he was “concerned about pay at the top levels across the economy”.

Some of the semi-state bosses are currently earning more than the Taoiseach, whose annual salary is €228,466. Declan Collier, chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority, has a salary of €320,400. His contracted salary was for €350,566, but he agreed to a salary cut of just over €30,000 a year.

Chief executive of An Post, Donal Connell, earned a total of over €500,000 last year, even though he forfeited a bonus for the year. His salary was €386,000. Such salaries are beyond the country’s means.

By comparison, the salary of President Barack Obama, the highest-paid public official in the United States, is $400,000, which is about €240,370 at the current rate of exchange. In the midst of the ongoing financial crisis this country would appear to be in danger of bankruptcy if it does not face up to its problems, but the Government continues to spend as if our economy was flourishing, with unlimited funds at our disposal.

The promised review of the salaries of the chief executives in the semi-state sector has been put off. The minister has informed the Government that he would not be conducting the review in the near future because of the pressure of other work, but that he would consider the review in the coming months.

The real question that should be asked is not just why the review has not been conducted since it was promised last December, but why cuts were not introduced two years ago, when it became clear that the country was facing an unprecedented financial crisis.

The Department of Finance has now confirmed that the promised review has been put on the long finger. The minister and the Government are, in effect, giving the people of this county the longer finger.


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