Taoiseach refuses to rule out further 8pc cut if pay deal fails
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen yesterday repeatedly refused to rule out cutting the wages of public sector workers by a further 8pc if the public sector pay deal is voted down.
A string of unions has already come out against the deal, which says there will be no further pay cuts or forced redundancies if working practices across the public service are reformed.
However, the Government reserved the right to consider further cuts and weekend reports said savage 8pc cuts would be imposed if the deal was sunk.
When asked a number of times about the issue yesterday, Mr Cowen would not rule out such cuts but said the Government had "not contemplated any other arrangements other than we support this deal".
He also said people were wrong to doubt the promises contained in the deal and said the Government "is committed to implementing the deal if it is passed".
The executive council of the CPSU, which represents lower-paid workers and was behind the controversial Passport Office action, rejected the deal, as did soldiers' union PDFORRA.
"I would ask people to reflect on how it provides income stability, it provides job security, it provides a means by which pay issues can be progressed on the basis of finding savings through different ways of working," Mr Cowen said.
"I believe everyone understands what the wider economic challenges for the country are in all sectors of the community, both public and private."
When asked what would happen if the deal was not backed by the unions, Mr Cowen said: "These are the matters that will be put to the wider union membership in due course. It's a democratic process, we're in the midst of that process and I don't think people should assume what the outcome is at the moment."
Unite, the ASTI and the TUI have already called on their members to vote against the deal. The executive of Impact, the largest public-service union, has declined to recommend it.
SIPTU and the Irish Nurses' and Midwives' Organisation will meet today to decide whether to recommend a 'Yes' vote to their members.
Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe said that he would not speculate about what the Government might do if the deal was rejected.
"This obviously will be a Government decision -- to have a look at whatever the outcome is," he said.
"This obviously would stand us in good stead and deliver a far better product for the customer at the end of the day," he added.
"We believe that there is good rationale within the union members themselves and those who oppose it would want to be asking themselves the question: 'What can you put in place as against what has been agreed given the difficulties that the economy is facing?'
"It is the best that could be negotiated at the time with no pay cuts, no mandatory redundancies and the restoration (of pay) when the national economy can afford it."
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey criticised "militant union leaders" who had questioned the trustworthiness of the Government.
He said some comments were "not helpful", and singled out CPSU chief Blair Horan.
"I don't know where Blair Horan or anybody else thinks there might be a pot of money they're going to get," he said.
"I think the union leadership, at least, have a responsibility to go out and say: 'We have negotiated this in good faith, the Government negotiated with the unions in good faith.'"