Monday 24 July 2017

Kenny hardens stance on public pay but FF says he is 'going soft'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe have dramatically hardened the Government’s stance as they warn there will be no capitulation to the demands of the public sector. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe have dramatically hardened the Government’s stance as they warn there will be no capitulation to the demands of the public sector. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Government is to face down trade unions in a high risk strategy aimed at stalling demands for faster pay restoration.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe have dramatically hardened the Government's stance as they warn there will be no capitulation to the demands of the public sector.

In a move that will stoke tensions with unions, Mr Donohoe is refusing to accept Siptu president Jack O'Connor's demand that fresh pay talks be announced by Thursday.

The position was finalised following a significant intervention by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

He warned that the Government has "buckled" under pressure from unions.

Mr Martin said the Coalition's focus needs to be on tackling spiralling rents and insurance costs - and not a faster pay restoration for public servants.

"I think pending a proper assessment in terms of Brexit, we need to be very careful we don't go down a road of a new pay agreement that we are simply not in a position to afford," Mr Martin told RTÉ's 'Today with Seán O'Rourke'.

The Opposition leader said the Government must "stand up for the taxpayer" and ensure that the Lansdowne Road Agreement, which is due to expire in September 2018, runs its full course.

He accused Mr Kenny's administration of going "soft" on unions.

"I think the Government has, too hurriedly in my view, begun the unwinding of Lansdowne," Mr Martin said.

"The Government has to stand up for the taxpayer and everybody else."

He also took a swipe at unions, adding that "people (are) chasing single digit percentages that in the end of the day get swallowed up in one insurance increase."

Within Fine Gael, the view has significantly hardened in relation to the appropriate response following the threats by union leaders, particularly Mr O'Connor.

The Siptu boss warned on Thursday that he would authorise his sectoral organisers to ballot for industrial action among 60,000 workers unless an invitation for pay talks is issued.

But several Fine Gael ministers last night hit out at Mr O'Connor.

They said he was putting his union's own interests before those of the country.

"If we took Jack O'Connor's advice in 2011 - we would be in the s***," said one Cabinet source.

Meanwhile, a memo being brought to Cabinet today will outline that up to 9,000 additional staff members will be required to ensure a properly functioning public sector between now and 2021.

But the memo makes no mention of Mr O'Connor's demands for the commencement of talks aimed at finding a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

A senior Government source said Mr Donohoe's memo was "designed to reinforce the fact that there is no pot of gold to buy off the public sector".

"He won't be advancing any timelines at this stage," a source said.

The source added that the view of Mr O'Connor's deadline was that he "is under pressure from his membership but it can't be taken seriously".

Irish Independent

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