Tuesday 17 October 2017

Howlin pressing ahead with plan for €1bn in public sector savings despite protests by frontline workers

Protesters applaud speakers during a rally by members of the 24/7 Frontline Alliance in Tallaght
Protesters applaud speakers during a rally by members of the 24/7 Frontline Alliance in Tallaght

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has insisted that he is pressing ahead with his plan to reduce the cost of the public service by €1bn despite a huge rally by frontline public sector workers.

Around 4,000 nurses, gardai, prison officers and firefighters turned out at the protest meeting in Dublin, claiming they were seen as easy targets but had nothing left to give.

Mr Howlin acknowledged that the state depended on public servants to provide frontline services.

“But we need to make the pay savings I’ve laid out. I think most public servants know that. We want to do it in a way that’s completely fair,” he said.

The Government is targeting a €1bn reduction in the public sector pay bill over the next two years through longer working hours and cuts to overtime and premium pay.

Mr Howlin rejected the notion that there was a difference between “frontline” public sector workers working on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week roster, and “non-frontline” public sector workers.

“I’m concerned about a deal that will affect all 290,000 public sector workers. There’s 290,000 frontline workers because every public servant is delivering a service to citizens across the state,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters before entering Government Buildings in Dublin for the cabinet’s weekly meeting, where he is expected to brief fellow ministers on the progress of talks on an extended Croke Park deal.

Mr Howlin said he was still confident of achieving a deal that would be "acceptable to everyone".

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