Restore services ahead of public sector pay - Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar believes restoring services must get priority over public sector pay rises - putting him at odds with Labour.
Mr Varadkar's comments again show the tensions in the Coalition over pay increases for 300,000 public service workers.
Talks on the reversal of pay cuts take place next week. Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has already signalled he is open to some restoration of pay in the negotiations, while insisting the business will not be done publicly. He has also indicated he has an extra €750m leeway next year.
The Health Minister and his Fine Gael colleague, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, take a more conservative stance on the issue. They have also spoken of the need for improved public service productivity to match any pay increases.
Speaking to reporters at a conference of health workers in the union IMPACT in Ennis, Co Clare, yesterday, Mr Varadkar said public services workers did not cause the economic crisis and their sacrifices had helped remedy it. On that basis he favoured public pay rises - but services came first.
"My preference is that I would like to have more staff in the health service, not fewer staff earning more, and I hope there is room for both but I know where my priority is," the minister said. Inside, before over 600 delegates, Mr Varadkar again addressed the issue of pay restoration.
"As a member of the Cabinet, I would find it very hard to support a pay deal that comes at the expense of public services.
"There should never be a conflict between what is good for staff and what is good for patients and taxpayers. But if such a conflict arises it is my duty to be on the side of taxpayers and patients and that is a judgment call I am ready to make," Mr Varadkar said.
Government sources have confirmed increases averaging €800 per year may be on offer.