Wednesday 26 July 2017

Croke Park deal may have to be reviewed -- Rabbitte

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A CABINET minister last night raised the possibility of renegotiating the Croke Park agreement.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the deal -- which protects the pay and jobs of hundreds of thousands of public sector workers -- would have to be revisited if it didn't start delivering savings and reforms.

His comment comes as Fine Gael TDs suggest the agreement, or at least parts of it, will have to be looked at again.

Speaking on RTE's 'The Week in Politics', Mr Rabbitte said the Government may have to renegotiate if the agreement does not deliver proper reform, such as in areas like staff redeployment.

"It may well be the case, especially depending on how things go in the eurozone, that we will have to sit down and talk to the unions about renegotiating that agreement," Mr Rabbitte said.

"But that depends on growth rates, growth projections and it depends on whether it delivers."

One of the most contentious issues regarding public sector pay is increments given to workers who move up a further point on their pay scale.

The Government is expected to pay out between €250m and €300m in the coming year in increments.

One of the major reforms envisaged under Croke Park was the redeployment of staff across the public sector, and this faces a crucial test next year.

Up to 6,000 teachers, gardai and other workers are due to leave the public service in 2012, making it necessary for other staff to move to fill gaps in frontline services and Finance Minister Michael Noonan last week warned that increments would be looked at again if staff do not comply.

Asked yesterday if the Coalition would freeze increments in next year's Budget, Mr Rabbitte said it could create bad feeling with the unions and threaten reform across the public sector.

"Without any doubt it would be the end of trying to push through reforms that are badly needed in the national interest, by consensus," he said.

Payments

"They would be resisted. If it doesn't deliver we will have to revisit it."

Last night, Meath East Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty said that while she was not in favour of entirely ripping up the Croke Park agreement, elements of it were "difficult to stomach" when the Government was making cuts elsewhere.

Ms Doherty also said there were "quite a few" TDs in Fine Gael who felt the same way.

"When you see people losing out on their fuel allowance and lone parents payments, and increments are being paid, it is difficult to stomach, especially when it comes to senior civil servants," Ms Doherty said.

Dublin South's Olivia Mitchell said the taxes paid by public sector workers barely covered the public sector pensions bill, and said the Croke Park agreement couldn't be kept for much longer.

"I suspect public servants even think that themselves," she said.

Irish Independent

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