Public service

“Legal obligation” to restore public service pay

The Taoiseach said the government was legally bound to restore the salaries of senior civil servants to pre-austerity levels.

Micheál Martin said 90% of pay raise recipients were doctors and consultants.

Yesterday it emerged that senior civil servants, including medical consultants, CEOs of state agencies, some members of the judiciary and senior civil servants, were due to have their pay restored to pre-austerity levels July 1.

Financial Emergency Legislation (FEMPI) was used to cut civil servants’ pay as part of austerity measures introduced following the financial crash of 2008.

Salary rates up to €150,000, which represent 99% of the civil service, have been fully restored.

Under the Civil Service Pay and Pensions Act, wages for people earning more than €150,000 must be restored by July 1.

Speaking during a visit to a health facility in Co Mayo this morning, Mr Martin confirmed the measure was part of the restoration of the FEMPI cuts and was something that was backed by Sinn Féin and trade unions.

“There is no circumvention of the government’s legal obligations to fulfill by law what the government must do,” he said.

Earlier, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said the reinstated salary increases for senior civil servants were due to a 2017 law that would undo the freeze.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he also said most of those who will benefit from the pay rises are hospital consultants.

“The facts are as follows. During the recession a decade ago, during that terrible period of austerity which we all remember vividly, all civil servants saw their salaries cut, and those who earned the most saw their wages drop to the lowest and for longer,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the legal opinion was that to reverse the pay cuts again, a new law would be needed.

“We had to look at our options because we knew it would be controversial and we knew it wasn’t coming at the best time, although there’s never a good time to do these things. So we looked at the options. , ” he said.

“The options were to pass a new law to further delay the restoration of wages for this group of people and the advice was very clear because the legislation used to reduce the wages of civil servants was a financial emergency provision.

“There is no longer a financial emergency. We have record levels of employment and public service. Public finances are in good shape.

“And we had to go to court and argue that it was right to completely reverse the pay cuts of a school principal or someone working in the passport office or a custody inspector, but there was no problem distinguishing the doctors and that would be it’s not true.”

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the reinstatement of salaries for senior civil servants will be viewed as unfair by other public sector workers.

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Doherty said: “People are waking up and they are looking at what they would perceive as an injustice here, as they see a government refusing to do anything for them.

“They see a government that refuses to act for low and middle income people and then they see this headline in terms of restoring wages and that is the problem.

“Where we would act is actually by ensuring that workers and families and low and middle incomes are protected.

“We have long called for the restoration of consultant compensation, but we recognize that what is in the media this morning goes far beyond the consultants, although it constitutes a large part of them.

“I think for a lot of public sector workers, including those on the front lines, nurses and healthcare workers who were on the front lines during the pandemic, it’s really going to stick in their throats because they’re still waiting. the €1,000 that was promised a year ago.”

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said Ireland was in another financial emergency and people could not accept a £60m a year surplus being paid now and in years to come.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime, he said it was a political choice made by the government on the same day it was telling low and middle income workers suffering from a cost of living or housing crisis that they had to wait for the budget. .