Cowen rules out Budget wage cuts
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night gave an assurance that the wages of public sector workers would not be cut in the forthcoming Budget.
Both he and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan have emphasised their commitment to the Croke Park agreement signed with the unions, which protects state employees from wage cuts and redundancies until 2014.
The Cabinet was told yesterday that both Mr Cowen and Mr Lenihan had met the public service executive committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions last Monday.
"They emphasised that the Government intends to comply with the terms of the agreement, given the benefits available from it," a government spokesman said.
There is a provision for reneging on the deal if there is an "unforeseen budgetary deterioration" and unions must also co-operate with reforms aimed at delivering major savings.
But the government spokes- man said Mr Cowen had not warned the unions that the deal was at risk if no reforms were implemented in the public sector.
Yesterday, Mr Cowen told the Dail he would present a four-year budgetary strategy in the middle of next month.
The strategy will detail whether the Government wants cutbacks of €3bn, €3.5bn or €4bn in the Budget on December 7.
The Cabinet approved the decision to allow a senior official in the Department of Finance to pass on the information to the opposition parties and cost any of their proposals.
Fine Gael indicated that it would take up this offer from the Government to "open up the books" in the Department of Finance, so that it could prepare its own four-year budgetary plan.
After a frontbench meeting yesterday, the party also officially accepted that cutbacks in excess of €3bn were required.
Mr Kenny said Fine Gael would put forward its own alternative to "point a pathway to restoring the country's good fortunes".