Bertie Ahern

Our senior politicians and civil servants have awarded themselves huge pay increases, bringing our Great Leader’s salary up to 310,000 euro, and those of other senior personnel to over 200,000 euro. The salary increases have been made to keep the pay of senior public professionals in line with the private sector.

Now, while I don’t have a major problem with key people in leadership positions earning high salaries, what amazes me is the government’s utter lack of forethought about how this news may potentially affect the economy. Because some people have attained much higher percentage rises than others, a widespread perception of inequality has almost definitely been created within the public sector. This news is likely to blow the existing pay agreements out of the water. It also means that industrial action and wildcat strikes are now more likely, with a corresponding knock-on hit to productivity and inflation.

To make matters worse, the government have just weakened their own negotiation position when it comes to future industrial disputes. In their minds, the conditions seemed right to justify a large pay increase for themselves. The precarious state of our economy seems not to have been much of a factor presumably. But who would bet against it being a HUGE factor in the broader round of bargaining ahead? It looks like one law for the élite, and something else for the rest of the population.

Another thing I am picking up is that the salaries were recommended by an independent board, tasked at benchmarking comparable salaries against the public sector. “Blame them, not us” the politicians seem to be saying. Clearly, that’s a rubbish argument. Do politicians automatically accept every single recommendation that passes their desk? And how many are accepted with such haste? A wiser set of politicians might have opted to forego their pay raises, recommendation or no recommendation.

I have a feeling that it’s now going to be a long, hard winter, all thanks to our political masters’ generous pay increases.