“Government has to deliver better value in order to reduce the deficit, avoid job-destroying tax increases and protect frontline services. As part of this reform Fine Gael will… introduce a salary cap of €200,000 for everyone”
Fine Gael’s “5 Point Plan to Get Ireland Working”
There was something a little surreal in reading the Department briefing notes handed to the incoming Minister of Finance, Michael Noonan and which were published by the Department of Finance last Thursday evening. The first note came from the Department of Finance’s Secretary General, Kevin Cardiff, a highly experienced civil servant who has been present at many of the nation’s crisis-points in the last three years including that ill-fated meeting at Government Buildings on the night of 28th September, 2008 which gave rise to the guarantee and you may remember seeing him alongside then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen and former Minister Lenihan at the announcement of the IMF/EU bailout last November, 2010. Michael Noonan too has been around for a long time and at 68 years of age next month faces one of the greatest challenges in his career as he tries to restore the nation’s finances. Michael is Kevin’s boss and is likely to be for the next five years. Michael earns €169,275 a year and Kevin, who works for him, is reported to earn €228,446 – 35% more. Surreal.
The same briefing continues to be surreal by stressing that one of the four overarching objectives of policy should be to deliver “improvements in competitiveness and reforms to improve competition and reduce costs” and “further reductions in expenditures will be required and achieving these will require firm control of pay”. Surreal.
Page 190 of the main briefing document deals with the issue of public sector pay above €250,000 – not €200,000 as in Fine Gael’s “5 Point Plan to Get Ireland Working” and sets out some public servants whose pay is in excess of €250,000. The briefing goes on to say “a ceiling on salaries would have the greatest effect in the commercial State-sponsored bodies”. Former Minister for Finance Lenihan said in his Budget 2011 speech on 7th December, 2010 “while there are issues about the contractual position of incumbent post holders, I think the position of the Minister for Finance as a shareholder or statutory stakeholder in these companies can be used to enforce the objective of the maximum salary within a reasonable timeframe.”
Now in fairness to Taoiseach Kenny, one of the first reforms he effected as Taoiseach was the reduction of his salary by 7% from €214,000 to €200,000. And he reduced the Tanaiste’s, ministers’ and ministers’ of state accordingly. But what about existing contracts which provide for salaries in excess of €200,000? “private contracts” might be the defence, but is that the case any more?
Last Monday night on RTE’s Frontline programme, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter referred us to Article 43 of the Irish Constitution in the context of unilaterally changing private commercial lease agreements. That Article includes the following
“43.2.2 The State, accordingly, may as occasion requires delimit by law the exercise of the said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good.”
And indeed there are other instances of the “common good” occurring in our Constitution – Article 6, which is an overarching Article, for example says
“All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.”
So if the justice minister says that the State can interfere with commercial lease agreements in the “common good” then presumably the State can interfere with private employment contracts and change terms including remuneration. That being the case, then what obstacle lies in the way of delivering the Fine Gael “5 Point Plan to Get Ireland Working” pledge to cap public sector salaries at €200,000?
The First this I notice is that the Head of the Government is the lowest paid public servant on this list: These salaries are outrageous and if Enda Kenny wants to keep support for this Government he should immediately slash these lottery salaries .There is no justification in paying out such salaries when the country is in the financial meltdown it is in and with the savage cuts in essential services this action is morally justified .Before going off the Europe we need to cut our cloth according to our means !
This makes me feel sick !