Beehive needs more honey - authority

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012

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Despite what workers might feel about economic conditions, they've been told MPs are doing it tougher.

The Remuneration Authority, which sets MPs' pay, said their recent salary increases - including a rise of 1.9 per cent, announced yesterday - were not as generous as those other workers received.

In the latest pay round, Prime Minister John Key's salary rises by $7790 to $419,300 and Opposition leader David Shearer gets an extra $4900, taking his salary to $262,700. A backbencher's salary is up $2800 to $144,600. The pay rise is backdated to July 1, meaning MPs get half the increase upfront.

MPs also get up to $24,000 a year toward their rent or accommodation in Wellington, and $16,100 a year for expenses such as new luggage, flowers, gifts, memberships and meals.

But the Remuneration Authority said that was not enough to keep pace with the increase in the cost of living or general wage movements.

It was obliged to take account of prevailing adverse economic conditions, which was why it had delivered an increase of only 1.9 per cent, chief executive John Errington said.

"Since fiscal year 2009 general salaries and wages have increased by 5.6 per cent and the Consumers Price Index has increased by 8 per cent. Parliamentary salaries . . . have increased by only 2.9 per cent. This still leaves members of Parliament receiving lower remuneration increases than the general population."

But that figure excludes a $2000 increase in 2011 and a $5000 increase in 2011 to compensate MPs for the loss of their international travel perk and a significant drop in their domestic travel bill.

The travel bill has fallen now that individual MPs' travel costs are published every three months.

The Remuneration Authority says MPs have effectively taken a pay cut because their salaries took account of the "personal benefit" of the travel discount. They were therefore entitled to a salary top-up when they travelled less.

But the Public Service Association says the pay rise will be particularly hard for parliamentary staff to swallow.

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said many staff who worked for MPs had not received a pay rise in three years and were battling to get an increase.

"They are consistently being told by Parliamentary Service that there is no money in the pot for pay increases, yet MPs get a pay rise and a backdated lump sum without even trying."

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- The Dominion Post

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