Almost 130 parliamentary assistants working for TDs and senators have escaped the controversial public sector cuts of around 7% introduced by Finance minister Brian Lenihan in last December's budget.

The assistants or Dáil secretaries, most of whom are members of Siptu, were also exempted from the pension levy of 7% introduced the previous April.

But there are now moves to cut back on secretaries' overtime so the Oireachtas can stay within its reduced budget.

The judiciary and the president, whose pay cannot be cut for constitutional reasons, are the only other group to escape the cuts.

On Friday the Garda Representative Association lost a High Court action against the imposition of the pension levy. It had argued that gardaí are unique in that ? unlike other public servants ? they cannot strike and therefore should not have the levy imposed on them.

The salary of a secretary to a TD or senator, which starts at over €41,000, is paid out of public funds. However, the secretary is employed by the relevant TD, who in turn is paid an allowance to fund the secretary's wages.

As such, they are not deem­ed to be public servants and the levy and pay cuts do not apply, an Oireachtas spokes­man confirmed last week.

Instead the secretary's job is dependent on the TD or senator remaining in office: if the TD loses his seat or resigns, then the secretary also loses his or her job. Last month George Lee's secretary lost her job when the Fine Gael TD resigned his seat.

As the secretary/TD relationship is a sensitive one, secretaries rarely take up employment with another TD and never cross party lines.