By courtesy of the publisher, authors and translator, what you are going to read in the following post is dramatically true. I promise. Please read it and read my comment at the end of the post. Thank you.
Corriere della Sera > Italian life >
Senate Stenographer Paid As Much As King of Spain
Senate Stenographer Paid As Much As King of Spain
Stenographer’s €290,000 salary. Salaries quadruple by end of service. Clerks receive up to €160,000
Can a senator earn half of what the Palazzo Madama barber takes home? Yes, according to some parliamentarians who say their monthly salary is only €5,000 and sidestep questions from voters furious that cuts have failed to materialise. But no, it’s not true. It’s the same old trick – point to the “allowance” net of expenses, attendance allowances and other additional benefits. Taken together, other items all but treble a parliamentarian’s take-home pay.
The story has been dragging on for weeks. On one side, first-term Italy of Values (IDV) deputy Francesco Barbato waved his pay packet on television to show that salary, attendance allowances and assistant’s allowances took his net monthly pay to more than €12,000. On the other side is exclusive focus on the basic allowance. The claim is that other items don’t count. Many deputies (230 against 400 who haven’t) have actually signed contracts with their assistants and a large number pass some of the money on to their party. Often, they do so under duress but the gesture is a legitimate, and even noble, one. Yet is it right to burden the taxpayer with this, in addition to election expenses and allowances given to parliamentary groups? Would relations with the public not be better served by showing an actual pay slip? In the wake of a series of cuts, today’s pay is genuinely lower than the €14,500 revealed by Communist Refoundation (PRC) parliamentarian Gennaro Migliore.
But a confrontation in which both sides focus solely on how much deputies and senators are paid doesn’t make a lot of sense. Worse, it could turn voters off politics and distract attention from the real issue. And that issue is the overall cost of Italy’s resource-devouring political merry-go-round – the 52 buildings occupied by the parliamentary powers-that-be, the cost of red tape and the cost of the political structures, regional authorities, provincial authorities, myriad intermediate bodies and mixed capital enterprises that serve to feed a self-referential system.
The pay packets handed out to Senate employees say it all. Senate staff’s professional excellence has always earned high praise from senators on right and left, whether they come from the south of Italy or the north, but pay levels have risen to heights unparalleled elsewhere. Parliamentarians may be willing to attack Monti, Berlusconi, Bersano or even the Pope but they never criticise the clerks who cosset them day by day. Some hint, however: “We’re not the only ones who are overpaid around here”. The Northern League serjeant-at-arms Paolo Franco says quite openly: “The contract for Palazzo Madama staff is jaw-dropping. It gives them unbelievable career progression. Clearly, no more contracts like these should be stipulated in future. Everything needs to be changed”. How can a system survive when a stenographer can earn more than the King of Spain? It sounds unlikely but that’s the way it is. Without the three-year solidarity cut imposed by Giulio Tremonti for salaries over €150,000, a stenographer in the top pay band rakes in nearly €290,000 gross. Only €2,000 less than Spain pays Juan Carlos de Borbón and €50,000 more than Giorgio Napolitano’s gross salary of €239,181 as president of Italy.
Naturally, no one is stealing anything. Like Ermanna Cossio, the youngest pensioner in the world who retired at the age of 29 on 94% of her final salary, the stenographers can say that they didn’t make the rules. Fair enough. But those rules enable Senate staff to quadruple their pay in real terms over their career, thanks to a ridiculous system of automatic increments. Today, the rules generate sky-high earnings at a time when the rest of the county is being asked to make big sacrifices. Gross of tax and the Tremonti cuts, a clerk or barber can pick up €160,000, an assistant €192,000, a secretary €256,000 and an adviser €417,000. And that’s not all because the salary can be padded out with allowances. A chief clerk in the Chamber of Deputies is entitled to a monthly supplement of €652 gross, which rises to €718 in the Senate. A head service adviser at Montecitorio receives a supplement of €2,101 while a colleague in the Senate gets €1,762, to say nothing of the top-flight jobs. According to l’Espresso magazine, junior minister for the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for relations with Parliament Antonio Malaschini earned €485,000 gross in 2007 as the Senate’s general secretary. Subsequently, he received a €60,000 hike that took his pay to an all-time record for the post. Obviously, pensions are in proportion, and according to the tables are never lower than €500,000 gross per annum.
This is one of the issues. Extremely favourable methods of calculation turn high salaries into equally spectacular pensions. We could mention that staff hired before 1998 can still take their pension at 53, albeit with relatively bearable penalties. Like an example? A 53-year-old parliamentary adviser hired at the age of 27, who purchased pension rights for four years spent at university, has accumulated 38 years of pensionable service. This means he or she can retire on €300,000 gross per annum, the equivalent of 85% of final salary. Should he or she stay on to the bitter end – age 60, in this context – then the pension becomes 90% of final salary, more than €370,000 of the maximum €417,000. Lower pay bands work in much the same way. At 53, a clerk can retire with a pension cheque worth €113,000 a year, which can rise to over €140,000 if he or she hangs on until the age of 60. The consequences are mind-boggling. A senator with maximum contributions will never be able to pocket such a healthy pension and all this is still going on as the Save Italy package racks up the retirement age for ordinary Italians while trimming pensions with the move to a pro-rata contribution scheme.
Yet it would be wrong to say that Parliament has done nothing. In December, the Senate’s presidency council decided that pro-rata contributions should apply for staff currently in service. But as Paolo Franco explains, before the ruling becomes operative, it will have to survive the administration’s negotiations with the unions, of which there are about ten in Palazzo Madama for fewer than 1,000 employees. The locking of horns will be relentless. Following months of arguing over costs, a 2008 clamp-down backed by serjeant-at-arms Gianni Neddu looked to be in place. But when the new majority took office, it opted to avoid a clash and union vetoes torpedoed the initiative. This time, negotiations are set to be even more entertaining. Lined up against the unions is the deputy president of the Senate, Rosy Mauro of the Northern League, a party that is strongly opposed to pension reform. Ms Mauro is herself a trade unionist and the serving president of SINPA, the Northern League’s union.
In the meantime, parliamentary staff who head for the door are being showered with gold. Parliamentary adviser Sig. X – as we will call him but he has a name and surname – left the Senate in July 2010 at the age of 58. Since then, until the three-year solidarity contribution for top pensions came into effect, Palazzo Madama was paying him a monthly pension of €25,500. Twenty-five thousand five hundred euros. Fifteen times a year. In proportion, the 13 payments ordinary mortals receive would be worth €29,423. This even outstrips the pension of former Senate employee and former parliamentarian Giuseppe Vegas, who today chairs the Stock Exchange watchdog CONSOB. His monthly pension is reckoned to be €20,000. Then there is Sig. Y, who was hired with only a junior school leaving diploma. After retiring in July 2010, again at 58, he can’t complain about his €9,300 a month, minus the Tremonti cuts. Fifteen times a year. In other words, he takes home better than €20,000 more than the maximum salary of Barack Obama’s 21 closest aides.
The figures spotlight the privileges lurking in a crazy system that should be corrected before – before! – anyone touches the pensions paid out by the social security institute INPS. The accounts of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies couldn’t be clearer. In 2010, the average pay of the Chamber’s 1,737 employees, from humble clerks to the general secretary, was €131,585, or 3.6 times the average pay of a civil servant (€36,135) and 3.4 times the pay (€38,952) of a counterpart in the UK’s House of Commons. We are talking about pay, not the cost of labour. If we factor in social security contributions, the average cost of each member of the Chamber’s staff shoots up to €163,307 while the 962 staff members in the Senate cost an average of €169,550. But there is more. The Senate’s accounts feature an item that refers to “non-employee staff”, which includes committee consultants and other collaborators but in particular workers contracted for various obscure “special secretariats”. Despite the much-trumpeted cuts, the cost of these contracts rose in 2011 from €13.52 million to €14.99 million. A hike of 10.87%, or three times the inflation rate, as Italy’s GDP headed south.
Sergio Rizzo and Gian Antonio Stella
4 gennaio 2012 | 16:36
© RIPRODUZIONE RISERVATA
English translation by Giles Watson
Let me now ask you this simple question: how do you classify similar behaviours and earnings, moral or immoral? If, as I think, you classify them as immoral, then let me ask you something more: is it ethic or not to ask people to behave like French revolutionaries on July 14, 1789? Is ethic or not to ask people to not have any kind of fears and go onto the streets to ask for a new political, social and democratic order? Is it acceptable to ask people to do do something hard and strong to stop "a gang of vampires"?
If your answer is yes, then let me tell you something more: please, don't think this kind of foolishness is an exclusivity of Italian political system. If you think this you are wrong. Because this foolishness is like a virus that is expanding worldwide. All the so called "democratic" political systems in the Western World are infected of such corrupted bad people and their bad behaviours. In my opinion there is only a possible, acceptable and valid solution. The solution is to come back to behave like an old Japanese samurai. If you don't remember which kind of power owned an old samurai, please go to "PAGES" section at the bottom of this same Blog and read my previous post titled "The Honour of Samurai as learnt by Takashi Matsuoka" (you can click on the title if you prefer to go straight to the post). You will refresh your memory and your consciousness as well, especially morally and ethically.