TDs’ pay increase risks social solidarity

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TD’s pay will increase by 2% next Thursday from €96,189 to €98,113. Unsurprisingly, the public are underwhelmed. Until fairly recently the Government set TD’s salaries. This was always controversial as politicians were accused of writing their own ticket. Then the Government came up with what appeared to be a good idea. They linked TD’s salaries to those of Principal Officer grade in the civil service. That means that if Principal Officers succeeded in getting a pay increase TD’s benefitted accordingly and if they didn’t TD’s suffered accordingly. Like many good ideas it works fine in theory. However, it doesn’t appear to work in practice.

For those on higher rates such as Assistant Secretary Generals, and Secretary Generals and indeed some Ministerial Advisors, the increase will be worth even more to them because they’ll be getting 2% of a higher amount.

The public don’t generally have any personal connection with Principal Officers or other senior civil servants. But, they do have direct contact on a continuous basis with the people they elected to represent them. Therefore, they have a much greater interest in the pay they’re getting as opposed to the pay of other people who are utterly remote from them. Therefore, the attempt – clever though it might have seemed at the time – to hide behind the Principal Officer rank in relation to wage increases has failed spectacularly.

In addition to that, the Government themselves have undercut their own argument by virtue of the fact that Ministers and Ministers of State have voluntarily taken a 10% salary cut and made a virtue of it.

Should TDs then accept a pay rise of this magnitude at this particular time in the country’s history? In my view the answer is a resounding no, because we now have hundreds of thousands unemployed; no because we’re still dealing with a global pandemic with huge costs to the State and to so many individuals who are forced to just about subsist; no because we have record levels of child poverty; no because tens of thousands of our people are living below the poverty line; no because we may have to face the consequences of a hard Brexit.

There has never been a time in the history of the State when social solidarity was more necessary. We are running the risk of creating an underclass of people who will have lost out because of the pandemic, particularly young people, part time workers, the poorer sections of society, so we need social solidarity. Also, it will increase inequality, because even if the Government restores the Pandemic Payment at the moment TDs get €1849 per week before tax, that is far in excess of the pandemic payment, and far far in excess of the basic social welfare rate of €203, Therefore, if you make TDs €40 per week better off and you don’t make those people €40 per week better off, which obviously isn’t going to happen, then you are widening inequality. We are undermining solidarity by increasing a disillusioned underclass and further widening the poverty gap between rich and poor.

I don’t think the pay of the higher ranks of the civil service should be increased at the moment. Any money spent on public pay increases should be given to the lower ranks of the public service who have struggled and led the campaign to save our people from the consequences of the pandemic.

Therefore, I won’t be taking the increase. Incidentally, I didn’t take it last year either, but unlike others I didn’t feel the need to tell the nation. However, I don’t want to be unfair to my colleagues, I can afford to forego the increase. Others will no doubt make the case that because of their personal circumstances, they’re not in as good a position to do so. In the present circumstances of the country, the pay increase from €96,189 to €98,113 is difficult if not impossible to justify. Of course it is a matter of choice for each individual. Each individual is free to make his or her own decision. For me the decision is very simple.

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