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Other Questions - Third Level Staff

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

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 10.  Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the way he intends to reduce the pay of those university presidents who continue to earn more than the €200,000 public sector pay cap and who recently refused his request for a pay cut; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19402/12]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Since becoming Minister I have written to the chairpersons of university governing bodies requesting them to ask all relevant individuals, including presidents, earning in excess of €200,000 to make voluntary waivers of salary. While two individuals, one of whom is a university head, have agreed to make personal arrangements with their employer regarding a deduction of the amount of salary above €200,000, there have been no voluntary waivers made for the benefit of the State. I cannot enforce a voluntary waiver. Nor can I insist that a waiver, if made, follows any particular format. For instance, an employee is free to waive a portion of his or her salary in favour of a charity or his or her employer. The Government has decided that a salary ceiling of €200,000 will apply to future appointments to senior positions across the public service.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I thank the Minister for his reply. It is absolutely deplorable that people in positions of such privilege and leadership in our society did not respond positively to the request made by him and by the former Secretary General, Ms Brigid McManus. Giving a donation to charity, although a positive move in itself, does not adequately meet that request. Why were academic consultants excluded in this regard?

[86]Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Subject to confirmation, I understand the reason they are excluded is that they have a dual employment in that they have chosen, within the nature of medical education, to be both teachers and practising consultants at the same time. As such, their salary is from two sources, bringing it way over the €200,000 benchmark.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith On a related matter, the academic year for most third level institutions finishes relatively soon. The period in which our colleges and their top-class facilities are not in use each year is something of a farce. We are all conscious of the huge investment that took place in universities and institutes of technologies in the past decade or so. Those facilities should be in use for at least 90% of the year rather than 60% or 70%. Does the Minister intend to renew his request to these overly remunerated persons to take a reduction in line with what is an extremely high salary ceiling? The next academic year will come around fairly quickly.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I have no immediate proposals to renew my request. However, I am convening a meeting with the presidents and chairpersons of the governing bodies of the various third level institutions at which this issue may well be on the agenda.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe Will the Minister review the funding to the universities in question? That might be one way of encouraging action in this area. What is particularly galling for people who are facing cuts across the board is the perks to which many of these people are entitled, as well as the recent news of the apparent abuse of their positions by way of the upgrading of offices, procurement of art and so on. This is happening while children go to school hungry. The Minister has a powerful hand in seeking to make changes in this regard, and the sooner he implements those changes, the better.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I am conscious that some of the older universities are not accustomed to the close engagement of either the Higher Education Authority or the Department. The types of economies to which Deputy Smith referred are self-evident common sense. No commercial enterprise could afford to allow expensive plant and equipment to lie idle for long periods. Nor is this an issue only in the university sector. We have even less knowledge of what is happening in the institutes of technology. Part and parcel of the exercise to which I referred earlier will be a wide-ranging letter from the Higher Education Authority seeking to identify what each institution does, what it intends to do in the next decade and how it will meet those objectives. I intend to engage fully in that process while being careful at the same time not to stifle innovation, creativity and independence of operation. We must maintain the balance between our third level institutions being able to engage enthusiastically in certain activities and ensuring we get good value for money on behalf of the taxpayer.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe When was the last time we saw a cake sale in a university?

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