If we didn’t already have our suspicions about the state creating divisions between different sectors of the labour force, the Department of Finance has announced that NAMA staff will be exempt from the public-sector pay-cut due to come into effect today.  The rationale for this exemption, as reported in the Irish Examiner, is that the National Treasury Management Agency (through which NAMA has been established) has always set its own pay rates “ in order to compete with the private sector for high-calibre employees”.  The Department of Finance is quoted as saying;

“The NTMA has been excluded from the scope of the act because it has, since its inception, acted independently with regard to the setting of rates of pay for staff with a view to ensuring its ability to employ and retain the staff necessary to perform its tasks”

What this rather circular argument does is to reinforce the perception that those working in banking and finance are worth more to the country than groups such as nurses or Gardaí.  It is also a bit of a slap in the face to those who have taken pay cuts so that NAMA can be set up, when the agency’s staff will not be obliged to take a comparable hit.  All of this does not bode well for the prospect of major political and social change in Ireland in 2010.  The NTMA did suggest, however, that it would facilitate any staff that wished to take a voluntary pay-cut.  Perhaps the NAMA office will be swept by a wave of social consciousness and good will, brought on by New Year resolutions, and we will see a swift uptake on this option.  Here’s to 2010. Happy New Year!

Cian O’ Callaghan

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