The year’s first week of Dail sittings came and went without much attention being paid to the government’s U-turn on its decision to cut the pay of Assistant Secretaries by 12 percent and the pay of Deputy Secretaries by 15 percent.
The lack of attention to this U-turn—the only cut in the budget that has been rolled back, as far as I know—could reflect a lack of interest from the public, who perhaps think that senior civil servants were being unfairly treated by the budget proposals. Alternatively, the lack of interest may reflect the original timing of the announcement—just before Christmas Eve and three weeks before the next meeting of the Dail, by which time other issues (such as banking inquiries) had arrived along to distract the public.
Credit then, to RTE’s Rachel English for putting a question about this U-turn to junior minister Dara Calleary on her Saturday View program. Mr Calleary’s response was “There’s a U-turn in relation to 160 people whose salaries are benchmarked against a European level unlike most others in the service.” This follows a similar line used by the Minister for Finance. The Irish Times reported:
Mr Lenihan said the pay of workers at this particular grade had been benchmarked against their counterparts in other European countries and they were not paid more than those at equivalent positions.
The benchmarking exercise that Ministers Calleary and Lenihan were referring to (the report of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector) is here.
It discusses international comparisons and then recommends exactly the type of pay cuts that the government introduced in its budget. So the government’s defense of this U-turn is to use the same report that it used to justify introducing these pay cuts to now justify rolling back the pay cuts. This is hardly a satisfactory explanation.