Sunday 24 September 2017

Labour in desperate bid to sway unions with 'jobs plan'

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

LABOUR Party ministers are desperately trying to cobble together a makeshift stimulus package to get unions to call for a Yes in the EU fiscal-treaty referendum.

But Fine Gael ministers are concerned about rushing to dress up a list of existing measures as a jobs plan, when it's still not clear where the new funds will come from.

Instead, they want to see exactly what comes out of European talks on a growth plan, rather than building up expectations.

The country's largest trade union, SIPTU, is holding out on calling for a Yes vote unless the Government puts €10bn into a jobs-stimulus package.

Damage

Government sources told the Irish Independent that Labour is trying to combine existing funding and potential sources of investment with any additional EU cash that may come on line to describe it as a stimulus.

"Labour are under pressure from unions for sure to come up with a stimulus plan before the referendum," a minister said.

The concern within Fine Gael is the package won't appear to be credible and would only damage the Yes campaign.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is certain a stimulus deal will be struck at EU level, but is not taking anything for granted.

"Labour are really trying to put it all together just to get the unions on side. Kenny and Noonan are not keen on rushing it as they'd see it as unhelpful if it's not done right," a source said.

The possible elements of the package would include:

• The €1.5bn from privatisation of state assets, up to half of which can be used for job creation.

• Some funding from the National Pension Reserve Fund.

• Existing capital investment budgets.

• Private sector pension funds, if they can be attracted.

• European Investment Bank loans.

Labour sources denied that the party was simply trying to placate the unions but said the Government was working on a stimulus package.

"We have to do the balancing of the books but we also have to do stimulus. The key element is getting the funding in place. The difficult work is that hard graft. The packaging is not the problem. The deadline is when the money is in place -- not the referendum," a source said.

Irish Independent

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