Politicians and top civil servants awarded up to 33%
In early 2001, a special review body awarded pay increases to top Irish civil servants and politicians of between 7% and 33%, on top of the increases contained in the current national agreement. These pay rises may influence trade unions to seek a speedier review of pay levels elsewhere in the public sector.
In early 2001. the Buckley Review Body on higher remuneration in the public service awarded pay increases ranging from 7.4% for "programme managers" in the civil service to a maximum increase of 33.3% for the heads of government departments. The number of top-level posts covered by the review body is around 2,000. Apart from senior civil servants and politicians, this select group includes hospital consultants, the heads of non-commercial state organisations, senior positions in the police force (Garda) and the judiciary. The Prime Minister (Taoiseach) received an increase of 22%, raising his annual salary from IEP 114,561 to IEP 140,000, making him one of the highest paid national leaders in the EU. The salary of a regular elected parliamentary representative goes from IEP 39,184 to IEP 46,506, an increase of 18.7%.
All of these increases are in addition to the basic rises allowed under Ireland's current 33-month national agreement, the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF) (IE0003149F). Pay increases under the PPF amount to 15% on a phased basis (subsequently revised upward by 3% - IE0012161F).
The pay awards made by the review body apply between September 2000 and April 2001. This reflects the healthy state of Ireland's national finances as the last such review, published in 1996, was implemented only in April 1998. One difficulty for the government, however, is that a separate "benchmarking body", established under the PPF for the rest of the public service, could come under pressure from the trade unions in light of the award of such substantial increases to top civil servants.
The PPF benchmarking body is comparing pay and conditions in the public sector with those in the private sector. The body will produce a single report by the end of 2002, with any resulting increases supposed to be applied over the course of the next national-level pay agreement. However, the largest secondary teachers' trade union, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), has been conducting a series of one-day stoppages in a campaign aimed at securing a 30% wage increase (IE0012226N). This means that pressure on the benchmarking body to come up with pay recommendations - and for these to implemented before the end of 2002 - is already mounting.
The Buckley Review Body warned of this danger in its report: "We warn against drawing conclusions about other public service groups from this review. We found that the gap between basic public and private sector pay rates was much greater for the most senior posts and tended to diminish for less complex positions."