Friday 31 March 2017

‘There isn’t new money magically available to spend’ – Simon Harris on public sector pay

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Daire Courtney

Daire Courtney

Minister for Health Simon Harris and Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Neill got into a spat this afternoon over public sector pay.

The two fought it out on Saturday with Claire Byrne as Brian Dowling pressed them to provide solutions to the ongoing public sector pay dispute.

“The budget is the budget. There isn’t new money magically available to spend. Therefore, anybody making comments on public sector pay has to be conscious of that, and there is also an obligation on them to say where they’d find the money,” Simon Harris said.

He also stressed that there “quite simply isn’t enough” to front any more money to increase pay for doctors and nurses, despite the ever-increasing staffing crisis in Irish hospitals.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly, challenged him to explain why the Labour Court’s recent ruling on pay for Gardaí could happen outside the Lansdowne Road agreement.

“We accepted the Lansdowne Road Agreement in our budget, but the government is now saying that An Garda Síochána’s pay claim can be settled outside of it; it’s simply unfair.”

“You can sit here and say it isn’t fair, or you can tell us how you would pay for it. You haven’t said where you’re going to get the money,” Simon Harris shot back.

Deputy O’Neill challenged him to explain how the money was found for the Gardaí if it could not be found for other workers and why the government supported the ‘unfair’ decision.

“It was the Labour Court, and not the government, that made the recommendation,” Minister Harris said, claiming the government could not refuse the Labour Court recommendation.

“I worked in industrial relations until very recently. I made a pay claim which was accepted by the Labour Court and by our members, but it wasn’t implemented because of the Lansdowne Road agreement,” Deputy O’Reilly continued.

“So this government is no stranger to going against Labour Court recommendations.”

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