Tannist stressed that the reinstatement of pre-penalty wages for Ireland’s highest-paid government employees should not be misrepresented as a wage increase.
EO Varadkar said those describing the move as a wage hike for the richest of the society were factually incorrect.
Wages in public services in Ireland were cut a decade ago after the financial crash and the vast majority have been reinstated since legislation was passed in 2017 to restore basic pay rates.
The group earning more than €150,000, which includes hospital consultants, judges and high-ranking civil servants, is the last group to have their salaries reinstated.
The reinstatement is due to take effect in early July.
Mr Varadkar defended the wage reinstatement during Thursday’s People Before Profit – Daily exchange with Solidarity TD Paul Murphy.
Mr Murphy said the government’s decision to go ahead with wage restoration calls for significant wage increases in the public sector in contrast to its position on the trade union to help absorb the rising cost of living.
He also highlighted the reluctance of ministers to introduce any new support for families until the October budget.
TD described the situation as “a tale of two Irelands”.
“Instead of massive wage increases for the top 1%, the government needs to act now to protect low- and middle-income workers from the cost of living and housing crisis,” he told Taniste.
Mr Varadkar replied: “I think what you described there was a misinterpretation of the facts.”
The Lalit Gail leader continued: “It’s not a pay hike, it’s a pay restoration. It’s a reversal of the pay cut that happened 10 years ago.
“It’s not a pay hike – it’s a reversal of pay cuts and pay reinstatement and if it were any other group, how would you describe it.”
Salary increase is not a salary increase when in 2022 you earn the same as in 2012Leo Varadkari
Mr. Murphy questions Varadkar’s reasoning.
He said: “When is a salary increase not a salary increase? What, when you are on more than 150,000 euros?
“I mean last year the general secretaries of the departments you were leading were taking home 210,000 euros a year. This year, or in the next 12 months, they will take home 250,000 euros a year.
“In one’s money, that’s a pretty significant year-over-year pay increase.”
Mr. Varadkar replied: “In answer to your question, a salary increase is not a salary increase when in 2022 you earn the same amount as in 2012.
“This is the reverse of a pay cut. This is salary reinstatement. They are facts, you can choose to misrepresent them, but they are facts.”
The government signaled this week that it was ready to make a new proposal to unions, at a widespread stalemate over public sector wage rates.
A government proposal that would have seen a wage increase of 2.5% this year, followed by a similar increase next year, was rejected by unions last week during talks involving the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Mr Varadkar has said the government plans to re-engage with the talks and present another proposal.
“We have already agreed to a wage increase, plus or minus a wage increase of between 2% and 3% this year, and we acknowledge that this is not enough given the cost of living and so we The sector is engaging with unions not only this year, but also next year on an agreement for better pay hikes,” he told the Daily.