Monday, November 05, 2007


Is it going to be payback time, literally? Bertie Ahern doesn't want to forfeit the extra 38 grand. But a couple of Ministers have been sounding a little peevish and watery about getting another massive rake of cash on top of all the perks, money and extras they have got over recent years.

And it's not just the politicians. It's the entire top brass.Secretaries General (Grade 1) of Government Department will all be getting €303,000, as will Supreme Court Judges, CEOs of semi states, with a whole second tier of judges, technocrats, Semi State bods, university heads getting humongous wage levels. The plain truth is that we are more prosperous now but STILL a small country, and such largess is unjustified. An independent body it may technically be but it is composed mostly of very wealthy people from the private sector - there is one workers' representative from the Labour Court. For them big six figure salaries are (excuse the mixed metaphor) ten a penny.

And what's galling is that they are all entitled to gold-plated pensions that are inured to the winds of change. And secretary generals will also be entitled to bonuses up to 20% of their salaries for 'exceptional' performance, whatever that is. And will they get docked pay for making a blunder or for under-perforimg? Umm, I thing we have a negative on that one!

Eamon Ryan didn't do well this morning under a fusillade of questions from Cathal Mac Coille on Morning Ireland (hear the interview here). And the rumour is that the Cabinet is now going to indulge in a bit of tokenism and defer the pay rise for a couple of months, and then reintroduce it when the furore has died down.

Sadly, I wouldn't expect any of the opposition parties to do any better. The greed at the top reflects wider society. Who's going to protest about it? No politician will, that's for sure! Who else? The vested interests involved are the most powerful in the country! Who has the will and the wherewithal to do it? Anybody who has is going to be way outside the golden circle.

There are sectors in Irish society where salaries are vastly inflated. Executive pay in business is crass. Barristers and consultants at the top of their professions command obscene fees that are grotesquely out of proportion with Ireland's size and position in the world (for reference, return to home truth speech made by the German Ambassador to Ireland). And no matter how consultants try to dress it up, one of their number did described a €200,000 plus salary as "Mickey Mouse money".

I'll just finish by quoting two paragraphs from Polly Toynbee's excellent column in the Guardian last Tuesday on pay profligacy (being Toynbee, they are two very long paragraphs!.

Out of control top pay in the private sector should matter to the Treasury because it infects the public sector. Why is the cabinet secretary now paid considerably more (£220,000) than the prime minister (£187,000)? It's a plum prestige job that needs no bribery, and leads to rich jobs afterwards. Does the chief executive of Bradford need more than the PM? Bringing private sector people in now infects public pay scales, as lower ranking arrivals on £300,000 report to permanent secretaries on £170,000. (However there is plainly a rare genuine market for head of the nuclear decommissioning authority: no one applied for this toxic chalice at £80,000 so it's now been advertised at £200,000). But being director general of the BBC is not toxic: everyone wants it, so why pay a total package of £788,000 - let alone cabinet minister rates for scores of middling BBC managers? (And couldn't they take a pay cut in sympathy with those about to lose their jobs?) Sir John Bourn's downfall is a classic example of how private excess makes public people lose their financial bearings.
For Labour to refuse to give any leadership on this is an incomprehensible lacuna: the national psychology of pay affects everyone. Yesterday the government set up a new child poverty unit: Ed Balls and Peter Hain, the two ministers involved, know their 2010 half-way mark to abolishing child poverty will be missed by miles on its present trajectory. Barnardo's are joining in - but their director, Martin Narey, wonders what they can do with no extra money. Only 48p a week extra went to child tax credits this year, subsidising low-paid jobs. The bigger question is this: how can Labour ever abolish child poverty if they dare not face down the underlying forces fracturing pay scales all the way through and accelerating the country into ever greater inequality?

The selfsame argument can be made in Ireland.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Forget about it. These guys are all the same. They are all at the trough.