Saturday 27 May 2017

O'Connor's ultimatum has achieved nothing - Martin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised Siptu’s leader. Picture: Arthur Carron
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised Siptu’s leader. Picture: Arthur Carron

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has become the first senior political leader to criticise Siptu President Jack O'Connor over his ultimatum on pay talks.

Mr Martin said Mr O'Connor's decision to set a deadline for today for the announcement of new talks had done nothing to resolve the standoff with Government.

"I don't think he should have set that deadline. I don't think that's going to move things on at all," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Martin said the Government "buckled" under pressure from unions in a move that could eventually jeopardise services and put "enormous pressure" on the taxpayer in the future. He also expressed deep concern the fallout will result in a "big black hole" in the Department of Justice's finances.

But he warned union leaders against jumping on the back of the garda pay deal, which the Department of Justice now estimates at €50m.

"The garda settlement in the end via the Labour Court - one comment you can make in relation to it is gardaí have always been outside the industrial relations machinery in the State," Mr Martin said.

"So the idea that everyone now is grabbing onto the gardaí and saying 'Because they got a settlement so we all must get a new settlement', I'm not too sure is valid.

"I understand union leaders who do that for their members, but the bottom line is the gardaí have been squeezed historically out of the pay and industrial relations machinery."

Mr Martin said the Government should produce an analysis of the various challenges facing services and sectors in light of Brexit and the industrial unrest.

He said Fianna Fáil was committed to the future of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

His remarks came as Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government was prepared to stand up to unions even if it resulted in strikes.

"We're also the Government that in recent weeks decided to get to a point that regrettably most of our secondary schools had to close," he told Newstalk.

"We did that because we felt that we had to stand by agreements that we had made in relation to public service wages and how they are run.

"That is a period that we went through because of our determination to stand by the agreement…" he added.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said workers in the public sector had made huge sacrifices and "the same applied in an even more serious situation in the private sector where hundreds of thousands of jobs were in jeopardy or were lost".

"The situation is that the country is in a better position economically than it was but we still face very serious challenges ahead," said Mr Kenny, who noted that private sector unions were now looking for 4pc pay hikes but said the country had to "make it easier for people to have jobs and get into employment".

Irish Independent

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