Monday 24 July 2017

Government refusal to rule out more pay sparks fury

Anne Marie Walsh and Aine Kerr

THE chairman of the union group steering the campaign of industrial action has described talk of further public sector pay cuts as "crazy".

ICTU Public Services Committee Chairman Peter McLoone was reacting to Tanaiste Mary Coughlan's refusal to rule out further reductions as the Government seeks €3bn in savings next year.

He said the Government had to recognise that the well was now empty.

The Tanaiste yesterday refused to rule out further pay cuts amid opposition claims the Government had led a "vulgar campaign of abuse" against public sector workers.

Any savings from public service reform would be taken into consideration when calculating this year's Budget, she said.

But Ms Coughlan said she was not in a position, in the month of January, to give an undertaking on future pay levels.

And she rejected Labour Party claims that the Government had led a "vulgar campaign of abuse" against public servants before imposing two pay cuts.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore claimed there was a "sweetheart deal" agreed in December which saw high-ranking civil servants, earning six times more than low-paid workers, having their pay cut reduced.

His claim came as Fianna Fail backbenchers hit out at the decision to allow the senior civil servants escape the full brunt of the public sector pay cuts.

Unions have complained that cleaners in Government departments were taking bigger pay cuts (5pc) than some senior civil servants, HSE officials, local authority managers and garda deputy commissioners (3pc).

The Department of Finance has confirmed the public sector pay cuts will be reduced for around 600 senior civil servants because it is taking their previous payments of up to €17,000 from an axed bonus scheme into account.

But 15 Fianna Fail TDs and senators have questioned this rationale, saying the bonuses should never have been paid in the first place.

Demeaning

Deputising for the Taoiseach in the Dail yesterday, Ms Coughlan said the review body on higher level pay had indicated that the bonuses were "indicatively part of their salary".

She said Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had accepted that a further reduction, that would equal an overall cut of 20pc, would be "disproportionate".

Citing the case of Mary Duffy, a clerical officer in the Department of Education whose family are living on her pay packet of €451 a week, Mr Gilmore said her wages had been cut by €77 per week.

"Meanwhile, the Government did a sweetheart deal for some of the more senior officers of Mary's department and other departments -- people who are paid six or seven times what she is paid.

"Mary Duffy and her colleagues have been subject for a year or more to a vulgar campaign of abuse demeaning the work they do and demoralising those who do it."

The Tanaiste said she rejected in the "strongest terms possible" any accusation that the Government had been involved in such a campaign.

Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins claimed the attacks on the wages of public sector workers were being implemented to pave the way for attacks on the pay of private sector workers, in an attempt to drive wages down across the economy.

"This deflationary policy of the government and big business will worsen the effects of the crisis by reducing demand and increasing the burden of the enormous debt around the necks of workers and the State, as well as leading to poverty conditions for many," he said.

Peter McLoone said that more than a quarter of a million people providing public services were earning less than €60,000 a year gross, even before the recent cuts reduced their earnings by up to 15pc.

He said there was potential for the current dispute to escalate, adding that this weekend people would be seeing the impact of the cuts in their payslips.

Irish Independent

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