Saturday 29 April 2017

Labour hangs Bruton out to dry on wages

Fiach Kelly and Sarah Collins

THE Labour hierarchy has unleashed a coordinated attack on controversial plans by Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton to cut the pay of up to 250,000 workers.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the Government should be "very careful" about tampering with the livelihoods of the lower-paid.

And a series of official Labour statements -- sanctioned by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's staff -- sought to undermine Mr Bruton's plans to overhaul the system of setting wage rates.

Yesterday, Mr Bruton again said he would stick with his proposals that workers in hotels and restaurants should lose their premium payments for Sunday working and insisted that he was working to restore competitiveness and create jobs.

As both he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny claimed that the Government was united on the issue, Labour statements criticised the plans.

The statements, from a number of backbench Labour TDs, were released by the party and sent to Mr Gilmore's advisers in Government.

All Labour statements are sent to the advisers but there was no attempt to rein in the attacks on Mr Bruton.

By contrast, backbench revolts during the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition were carried out without the support of the party apparatus.

TDs Michael McCarthy, Colm Keaveney, Robert Dowds, Sean Kenny, Derek Nolan and Kevin Humphreys -- all newly elected -- issued statements criticising Mr Bruton or his proposals.

Mr Humphreys said Mr Bruton should be concentrating on cutting the wages of lawyers and doctors instead.

"If Minister Bruton is genuinely concerned about making Ireland more competitive by cutting fees and salaries, he really should start at the top," the Dublin South-East TD said.

Mr Dowds accused Mr Bruton of a "drive to undermine" the wages of the lower-paid.

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Rabbitte said that the Government should be "very careful" when "tampering" with the livelihoods of lower-paid workers.

"Most people who work on a Sunday receive recognition for that in one form or another and you have to be very careful when tampering with the pay of very low-paid workers," he said.

Mr Rabbitte said Mr Bruton was the minister who had taken on the issue, adding: "Let him come back to Government with whatever proposals he thinks are right and the Government will assess them and decide."

However, Mr Bruton insisted that the Government was behind him.

He also said he had discussed his views with the Cabinet, which must make a decision on the issue by the end of June, since it was a condition of the EU-IMF bailout deal.

Mr Bruton also denied that he had been given a public slap down by Mr Kenny.

Asked if he had the full support of the Taoiseach, Mr Bruton said: "Of course".

However, Labour sources were satisfied at what they interpreted as a public rebuke for Mr Bruton.

Irish Independent

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