Kenny rules out Cabinet reshuffle as more public strikes loom
Published 24/11/2016 | 02:30
Taiseach Enda Kenny has indicated that there will be no imminent reshuffle of ministers amid the row over public pay.
He cited the ongoing industrial unrest among his reasons why the make-up of the Cabinet was unlikely to change any time soon.
Sources revealed that the Government had not yet committed to new year talks on pay rises for public servants as the threat of industrial action looms from next week.
Siptu has authorised its members to begin balloting from today unless the Government agrees to hold talks to further unwind emergency laws that cut state employees' wages by February 1.
Mr Kenny signalled at the Fine Gael think-in last September that a reshuffle was on the cards next year.
"I will of course reflect on the make-up of the Government and the ministers of state next year," he said at the time.
However, asked last night if he planned a reshuffle, he replied: "No, not now."
He said this was due to Brexit and the broader international situation including the fragility of politics in Europe. He also said: "We have challenges in respect of public pay and the public finances and we have to look at the question of the kind of country we're going to have over the next 10 or 15 years."
Public sector unions have demanded talks on restoring their wages to pre-crisis levels. Some described the Lansdowne Road Agreement as a "dead duck" after a €50m pay offer was tabled for gardaí to halt an unprecedented series of strikes.
Union sources said "the ball is now in the Government's court" after the public service union leaders gave Public Expenditure and Reform Department officials breathing space before they decide their next step.
But the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) is due to meet next week to discuss its strategy. For now, it remains committed to reaching a collective agreement, but its secretary Tom Geraghty has warned that industrial action is inevitable if this is not possible.
As well as facing the added financial pressure of further wage hikes, the department is locked in a battle with the Justice Department over funding the pay package offered to gardaí to avert industrial action.
A total of €290m has already been set aside to pay for public servants' pay rises due under the Lansdowne Road deal next year.
Union sources said the Public Expenditure and Reform Department knew the union position and a political decision would have to be taken on the talks. They said there had been no commitment to negotiations yet.
A spokesperson for the Public Expenditure and Reform Department said it was "continuing to engage with the Public Services Committee of Ictu".
Meanwhile, a union leader has warned that unions should take more strike action rather than relying on "earth-shattering speeches" to win pay rises.
Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said he admired the gardaí for their decision to threaten strikes in a dispute over pay rises.
"It's the strike decision that got the €50m, not earth-shattering speeches from trade union leaders," he said.
"There should be more industrial action. I don't think we are going to get the sort of pay increases people need without that."
He was critical of union demands for pay increases on the back of the Garda deal. "I didn't think it was only appropriate to demand pay increases just because of what the gardaí got, so if gardaí got zero nobody else would have a problem," he said.
"Unions should have been looking for it anyway."