Declan Collier: voluntary cut

Finance minister Brian Lenihan should review the "still grossly excessive" salaries of the country's top commercial semi-state bosses, according to one of his backbenchers.

Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork, was reacting to a Sunday Tribune survey which showed that of the six highest-paid chief executives of commercial semi-states, just half volunteered a pay cut – the ESB's Padraig McManus, Dublin Airport Authority's Declan Collier and Coillte's David Gunning.

But even those cuts still leave chief executives on packages well in excess of €500,000.

The three other CEOs received pay increases. These were Donal Connell (An Post), Gabriel D'Arcy (Bord na Mona) and John Mullin (Bord Gais). However, Connell waived his entitlement to a possible 25% performance bonus.

"Though some CEOs have taken voluntary pay cuts I still think the salaries are grossly excessive," said McGrath.

"There have been significant pay reductions in the private sector and the public sector but not in the commercial semi-state sector which is exempt. I think chief executives need to show leadership.

"After all, these people are heading up critical companies such as the ESB and Bord Gais that contribute to the high cost of business."

If the bosses refuse to take further cuts, McGrath said finance minister Brian Lenihan should intervene and bring about a review of pay at senior level that would bring salaries "back into line with market realities".

Under existing legislation, the government cannot interfere in the running of commercial state companies, particularly with regard to pay where semi-states are treated like private companies.

But any increase in the chief executive's salary must be sanctioned by the relevant minister, which gives the government some control, but not over the thousands of semi-state employees who have largely escaped the wage cuts.