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TDs are Winning Race to the Top

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The Government is continually emphasising the importance of competitiveness to the social partners as they start negotiations on a new national wage agreement. Are similar exhortations being made to the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Service which has just commenced a major review?

In the past, this Review Body made comparisons with the domestic private sector jobs but this time around it should also consider similar public sector jobs in other comparable economies.

Much of the data required for this work is published on the Internet. But there are gaps. For example, to compare current salaries of British MPs and TDs, copious material can be found on the Westminster website but the Oireachtas website contains no relevant information. For the record and to illustrate the problem, TDs now earn between 2% and 9% more than their UK counterparts notwithstanding that the Dail meets for only about 60% of the sitting time of Westminster and TDs effectively serve only a quarter the number of constituents covered by MPs. Likewise, Irish Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State earn between 1% and 5% more than their UK counterparts notwithstanding that they preside over a country that is no larger than some counties in the UK. Is it any wonder that the Irish information is hard to find.

If broader study confirms that other top-level salaries are also completely uncompetitive, the Review Body must confront the "appalling vista" of salary reductions to maintain competitiveness. Of course, they must take account of our recent economic progress. In doing so, it should also take cognisance of the fact that many key public services - health, law and order, transport and infrastructure - has been so ineptly lead and inefficiently managed that major achievements in other areas have been negated.

When establishment figures speak of international competitiveness, they should practice it. For starters, the Review Body on Higher Remuneration should be instructed to take account of and publish international comparisons when it devises new salary levels. This approach should also apply to the forthcoming benchmarking review. Additionally, the negotiators of the next national wage agreement should review the practice of setting percentage rather than absolute wage increases. This only widens the gap between the top and bottom grades and can result in senior officeholders receiving wage increases as large as average wages earned at the bottom.

A race to the top can be just as destructive for the national interest as the race to the bottom.

Note to Editor: The Irish salary levels were secured from the Oireachtas PR Office. A TD earns between €88,556 and €94,205. Ministers earn €199,044 and Junior Ministers get  €136,771. MPs earn the equivalent of €86,636. UK Cabinet Ministers and Minsters of State get €196,447 and €129,872 respectively (Source: House of Commons Fact Sheets M5 and M6).

Lead letter published in the Irish Times on the 13th February 2006.

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This page contains a single entry by Brian published on February 13, 2006 3:03 PM.

Taxes are for Little People was the previous entry in this blog.

Submission to Review Body on Higher Remuneration is the next entry in this blog.

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