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Lack of evidence base for High Public Service Pay Exemptions

12 March 2018

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has highlighted the increasing number of exemptions to the Government's pay guidelines for senior posts in the education, justice and health sectors that is undermining the public service pay deal, pointed out the lack of an evidence base for the decisions being made, and called for an examination of the issue by the Public Service Pay Commission.

Deputy Howlin said:

"In the last week we have seen a salary of €250,000 advertised for a new Garda Commissioner, a proposed salary of €250,000 for the new HSE director, alongside the revelations today that Universities have been given approval to recruit top academics on salaries of up to €337,000 a year. Such high pay awards fly in the face of the restraint that was previously exercised where top pay was capped at €200,000.

"The current 'Public Service Stability Agreement' pay deal is due to run until 2020, but the revelations of specific high pay deals for senior posts is undermining it. Its as though there is a structured process in place for lower paid staff and then an á la carte approach for those at the top.

"The exemptions in high pay stand in sharp contrast with the ongoing pay issues for recently recruited teachers, and the problems encountered in recruiting new staff to the Defence Forces. Once the Government takes the constraints off the top paid we will see similar demands for one off pay deals in other public service bodies.

"What is even more alarming is the lack of a clear evidence base for how these decisions are being made, and the entire edifice is slowly being undermined by one-off decisions that show a clear trend of higher and higher pay for senior executive positions across the public service.

"The Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) was supposedly established by Fine Gael to provide objective analysis on the appropriate pay levels for identifiable groups within the public sector.

"However recent announcements show a cart and horse has been driven through that process. The PSPC is currently engaged in Phase 2 of it's work which was to in its terms of reference 'Seek to establish in the first instance whether, and to what extent, a difficulty exists in terms of recruitment and retention for specific groups/grades/sectors of the public service'. The PSPC is due to report by the end of 2018.

"Specifically, Phase 2 was to examine those specific areas of the public service including senior executive and professional roles in the civil service where there are recruitment and retention issues, and was due to report by the end of year.

"However the latest developments show the clear need for an independent examination by the PSPC of the higher and higher pay the Government is sanctioning for senior public service roles, and there must be a requirement for each post that an evidence base is provided to back up the proposed pay award."