Setting: A private meeting between a Secretary General and a new junior; Got your emails Gerald, so what’s got you worried about pay?
Well, Secretary General the talk is that public sector pay is to go up 50% over the next few years, I’ve run the numbers and can’t understand how that’s possible.
Gerald, we won’t actually increase pay by that much at all.
So 50% is wrong?
No, 50% is about right, it just won’t appear that way. We’ll put most of it through in allowances, overtime and “sick leave”.
But surely the politicians won’t wear it? After all, it will openly challenge their running the country.
Gerald, you don’t seriously think we let politicians actually run anything?
We only let them think they run it. Anyway we’re going to link politicians pay to upper grades in the Civil Service, even higher for ministers, plus lots of receipt-free expenses. Meanwhile, public sector union chiefs have been, how do I say this delicately, persuaded of the wisdom of linking their own remuneration to similar scales as well. That way, there’s a common incentive to solving problems of pay.
You mean self interest, but surely the private sector who’ll foot the bill will see through it after all it will lead a huge pay and pension gap opening up?
See through it? Gerald, dear boy, the public sector is far too complicated for anyone to see through it and as for pension comparisons, well, they’ve no hope whatsoever – that’s why we use them to pay golden parachutes. And we can always rely on our union partners to find some heart-softening stories about those on much lower pay having a real hard time. That’ll deflect attention away from where the cream is being paid. See, the public love their Gardai, teachers and the nurses, they really dig those nurses. Very useful as a screen, along with low paid clerical grades in the Civil Service, thank heavens for them too.
But what happens when the increases are measured against value for money?
Oh we never actually use value for money to measure anything; it’s far too complicated for that. We call it benchmarking instead, sounds much better, a great word that – benchmarking.
But what happens when they apply the benchmarks?
No we only call it benchmarking, in practice there’ll be no benchmarks.
But surely they’ll go abroad for comparisons then?
Yes, we’ve anticipated that so we’ve commissioned a report, a comparison against other economies with older ages, much higher health costs, bigger armies, more expensive pensions, that kind of thing.
But what happens if the report leads to calls for corrective action?
Oh no, I said we’ll commission a report. But we never act on a report.
Reports, like tribunals, take lots of time and the public forgets. Then when the report finally arrives we say circumstances have changed and we need to commission another report and so on.
So let me get this right. We’ll hide, I mean overlay, the pay rises by using cash, sorry, allowances and expenses and more holidays, that is to say, sick leave. Then we link pensions to grade increases and increments, tie in the politicians with similar deals, and get union chiefs to follow suit – and we can boost their personal earnings even further with appointments to state boards. Finally, we cover it off by skewing the assumptions in comparative reports to give us the results we want?
All in the national interest Gerald. That way there’ll be harmony paid for with bribes, I mean agreements, understandings, undertakings, a general knowledge, an unwritten contract, if you’d prefer, among people of influence. About how things work. At the top. That’s our little lesson over Gerald and, remember, some day you can occupy this seat. After all I’m just keeping it warm for the next fellow to get the big uplift in pension just before retirement age – provided, of course, he asks the right question.
The right question?
What I’d like to do after retirement.
You mean what boards, review groups and agencies you might be able to assist – in the national interest?
Excellent question, Gerald, truly excellent and deftly put.