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Sunday 30 April 2017

Taxpayers should be rightly nervous at onerous demands

Anne-Marie Walsh

Eye-watering, astronomial and over the top. It's the only way to describe the full list of demands being made by public sector unions.

The effect they would have on the public purse does not bear thinking about. However, as the unions say, these are their opening positions.

But taxpayers have a keen interest in knowing what might get through the net.

We have already seen this Government start the year with a €120m deal for public servants on the back of a €50m Garda deal. It signed a special deal with doctors worth €12m. Yesterday, it signed off an agreement with health support staff at an unknown cost, and there is probably one in the pipeline for nurses.

Ironically, there seems to be little Government appetite so far - at least in the shape of Transport Minister Shane Ross - to contribute anything to avoid what will be a deeply disruptive all-out strike at Bus Éireann, not to mention the possibility of the entire operation going belly up.

One of the criticisms that is often made of social partnership is that it went on behind closed doors. The same is true of public service pay determination.

New talks are due around May on a deal to succeed the current Lansdowne Road Agreement. After a couple of weeks, there is likely to be an announcement that the Government has done a deal that will then be put to a union ballot.

But the current deal does not run out until September next year. You can bet your bottom dollar that unions will be seeking pay rises before then.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe is trying to put a brake on things by counting in the value of pensions and job security.

If anything is paid over what has already been allocated for State workers' pay rises next year, which already stands at €287m, it will have to come from other worthy causes like tax cuts or social welfare hikes.

Public sector unions get a lot of stick for holding the Government to ransom. They might use worthy language about their comrades, but at the end of the day they are paid officials with their own members' interests at heart. The trouble is they are very good at their jobs.

Irish Independent

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