Given the spiraling costs of everything from a cup of coffee to an electric bill, a fat raise would come in handy for most. The 15 you get in the summer will come in handy to ward off the inflationary wolf at the door.
Did raise you say? Oh man. You’re not part of the one percent in public service. Bad luck for you, so. The top “one percent” of our public employees, who earn salaries over $150,000, will receive pay rises of about 10 to 15 percent on July 1. It is billed as “restoring” the pay cuts experienced during the economic crisis. The austerity measures were apparently only temporary.
By last summer, all those in the public sector with salaries of up to €150,000 who were subjected to a pay cut under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) have had their pay fully restored.
With 99 percent of public employees back to pre-FEMPI levels, only the 1 percent remain – the crème de la crème, their general secretaries, hospital advisers, heads of state agencies and so on. The kind of people who influence public order and basically cannot be fired. Public service permanent and pensionable delivers exactly what it promises.
Last week, Public Expenditure Secretary Michael McGrath signaled again that the government intends to pay for the “long tail of FEMPI”. “The legal advice on this has been very clear so far that people have a right to have their wages restored and pensions in general restored,” he told Ciara Doherty The Tonight Show on Virgin Media.
Doesn’t that look great for the government: while the rest of the country struggles to pay the bills, the top dogs get a fat raise. McGrath has a review of senior salaries underway, but if he wants to stop the payouts, he wants to hurry. For the one percent, the rules of the game work differently.
FEMPI recovery for those over €150,000 is due July 1st. Strangely or coincidentally, Dr Tony Holohan retires as CMO “effective July 1.” He’s in the one percent. dr Holohan, or “Tony” from his acolytes, was due to transfer from the Department of Health to Trinity College Dublin on his €187,000 salary. Unfortunately, the trifle of who pays the bill got in the way. As Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly said, the public purse would pay for it either way. Taxpayers’ money – sure, that’s all one thing.
The motivation behind Dr. Holohan’s sudden desire to switch to science is the source of some conjecture. The feeling that it would be best if he went elsewhere seems to have been mutual, as his current employers have made every effort to facilitate the transfer. For the past two years, Dr. Holohan was at times the most powerful figure in the country as he dictated what pandemic restrictions needed to be in place. However, the tensions were palpable.
The government installed an oversight committee, chaired by the state’s highest official, to act as a filter for Nphet’s recommendations. Then Tánaiste Leo Varadkar rebuked Dr. Holohan publicly for recommending the country improve several tiers of restrictions “out of the blue.”
Nphet members were banned from the airwaves unless they had permission from government buildings. Nphet’s pessimistic modeling has been subject to external scrutiny, and there have been constant reports of tense meetings with ministers.
The saga of Nphet advice repeatedly leaked before he went into Cabinet was certainly something that Dr. Holohan could have addressed with a less formal approach to deliver his official letter to the Minister of Health, underscoring a poor relationship between the protagonists.
Sometimes a change suits everyone. Former Health Department secretary-general Michael Kelly was promoted to chair the Higher Education Authority in 2005 after the Travers Report criticized department officials over the illegal nursing home fees scandal. The lack of transparency behind the Trinity move thwarted Dr. Holohan’s little arrangement.
During the pandemic, the chief physician was happy to answer social questions if he was addressed as “Tony”. But he tended to be a bit touchy when it came to scrutinizing data, the logic of decisions, and conflicts between public health advice and government policy.
The fiasco leads to finger pointing Robert Watts, the irascible Secretary General of the Ministry of Health. Watt has become the beast of the political class, in both government and opposition, who dislike his Michael O’Leary-esque style of harsh language. His salary of 294,920 euros, including an increase of 81,000 euros when he switched to healthcare, makes him a lightning rod for political naysayers.
Unlike his contemporaries, Watt does not shy away from the limelight, but also knows how to direct the limelight to ill-conceived policies. When he was secretary-general of the Department of Public Expenditure (DPER), his Caesar-like thumbs down could spell the end of an initiative.
Luckily, one such example was the last Hokum health reform masquerading as transformative – then Fine Gael Health Minister Dr. James Reilly. DPER’s scathing criticism of the cost ended this exploit. Now we’ve moved on to Sláintecare, which has more value but is by no means perfect.
Notably, despite the transformative upheaval that Covid-19 has caused to life, work, the economy, housing, education and the healthcare outlook, Sláintecare has not been updated post-pandemic. For real? Isn’t there a reason to go back, refresh the plan and take stock of the past two years?
Watt is cast as an Obstructionist for raising concerns about the cost and issues with the plan.
He’s brave enough to defend himself. But surely having someone challenging the political consensus is better than the nodding donkeys at the helm during the Celtic Tiger era. They, too, caught up on the one percent, took the salary, tenure, and pensions—but forgot the community service part.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/in-defence-of-robert-watt-a-public-sector-michael-oleary-who-calls-out-hokum-41540072.html In defense of Robert Watt, a nonsense shouting public sector Michael O’Leary