Cowen told to 'get off his backside'
Union urges Taoiseach to tackle public sector reform
Published 21/05/2010 | 05:00
THE outgoing leader of one of the largest unions has told the Taoiseach to "get off his backside" and carry out his plan to transform public services.
IMPACT General Secretary Peter McLoone took a parting shot at Brian Cowen's approach to government in his final speech at his union's biennial conference in Kilkenny.
He urged him to take a hardline with senior managers who had been resisting change for years.
The union chief did not hold back in his criticism of the Government and warned that his 65,000 members were living in the hope of a general election for months. Mr McLoone's criticisms will be particularly stinging for the Taoiseach as he was the chief union broker of the Croke Park deal and is a veteran social partnership negotiator.
But the Taoiseach refused to get drawn into a row over his ability to implement the Government's plans to transform the public sector, and instead emphasised his deep respect for Mr McLoone.
Earlier, Mr McLoone said: "The Taoiseach must get up off his backside now and get all the key public service management players together as their current approach to reform ain't working."
He said the Croke Park deal would only be a starting point in transforming public services if it was ratified.
Mr McLoone said the deal would not work unless top managers in departments, local authorities and agencies stopped acting as "islands" and doing "solo runs".
The union leader said the reforms would deliver a range of improvements in services. But he added Mr Cowen must act immediately to provide leadership in implementing the agreement's reforms.
He also criticised government budgetary decisions and claimed while it was understandable that big business would want to heap the burden of economic recovery on working people and the unemployed, it was unforgivable that the Government did so too.
"I don't believe that feeling among the members that what the country needs is a general election has changed one iota," he said.
Mr McLoone, who retires later this year, also admitted he did not want to negotiate the Croke Park deal but said it was the best that could be got.
"I am 41 years in this business," he said.
"I did not come into trade unionism to negotiate deals like this.
"I never wanted, or expected, to do so."
But he said the draft deal was a major achievement for those who wanted a negotiated rather than a military solution.
"In a nutshell, Croke Park represents the most secure foundation stone we can put in place to deal with the threats and challenges we face," he said.
The Taoiseach said he had told Mr McLoone that working with unions could bring about the reforms needed and the Croke Park agreement set out how that would be achieved, sector by sector.
Meanwhile,, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) yesterday announced it would accept the proposed Croke Park agreement.
The organisation's decision to support the deal follows meetings of its consultant, public health doctor, junior doctor and general practitioners' committees. The IMO has 6,700 members.
The IMO said all committees had voted in favour of accepting the deal.