From Socialist Voice, November 2007

Parasites on the back of working people

“There has been deterioration in our cost-competitiveness in recent years, and arresting this trend will be [the] key to growth prospects . . . This must be a key consideration when we come to consider the next phase of negotiations on pay under Towards 2016.” These are the words of our illustrious leader Bertie Ahern a day after the Government announced a massive increase in pay for politicians and senior civil servants. The economy must avoid “wage-inflation spiral,” and workers must “manage expectations’’ as the pace of economic growth eases.
     The €38,000 increase self-awarded to Ahern compares with the average industrial wage of €31,252.
     The number of parasitic elements feeding off working people continues to grow. We have had builders and developers making vast fortunes, and hospital consultants describing a salary of €250,000 as “Mickey Mouse” money. Now we have the establishment politicians and senior civil servants—1,600 people in all—awarding themselves pay rises far beyond what workers have achieved through the “partnership” agreements.
     Ahern’s increase of €38,000 brings his salary to €310,000, plus expenses, which include a state car with driver and a gaggle of civil servants to work in his constituency. This will make him the highest-paid head of government in the capitalist world: he will receive more than the German chancellor, the French or American presidents, or the British prime minister.
     When he steps down he will have a pension of €170,000, index-linked to the pay of future Taoisigh. Pension indexation is something workers can only dream of.
     The review body recommended an interim award of 7½ per cent two years ago, followed by the current 14 per cent for the Taoiseach, 15.6 per cent for the Tánaiste, and 12 per cent for other ministers. It is estimated that the total cost will add €16 million to the public-sector pay bill. Most public-sector workers will have to endure a mere 3 per cent rise under the existing agreement.
     The highest average increases (18.1 per cent) went to the judiciary, because they are benchmarked against the high salaries earned by barristers, which had to be taken into account by the review panel. Circuit Court judges gained a staggering 22.4 per cent increase, bringing their salary from €160,950 to €190,000.
     The highest average, however, was 19.2 per cent, awarded to specialists in public-health medicine and directors of public-health medicine, at a time when there is an embargo on recruitment in the health service because of “budgetary difficulties.”
     Thousands of poorly paid public-sector workers will go on enduring increasingly poor conditions. Senior nurses, working in very difficult conditions in a failing health service, will still get paid €38,213 a year, while TDs will now receive more than €90,000 plus expenses.
     The spongers keep getting fatter and fatter.

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