Saturday 10 December 2016

Issue of public sector pay rises is Howlin's biggest test yet

Published 05/05/2015 | 02:30

Brendan Howlin, represents a party that is (a) badly struggling in the polls, and (b) heavily dependent on public sector votes (Damien Eagers)
Brendan Howlin, represents a party that is (a) badly struggling in the polls, and (b) heavily dependent on public sector votes (Damien Eagers)

News that the Government and unions will next week begin talks about restoring pay levels in the public sector brings to mind the old joke about the man asking for directions being told: "If I was going there, I wouldn't be starting from here at all."

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Holding talks on public sector pay 10 months, at most, from a general election is potentially a recipe for disaster. Particularly when the minister responsible for those talks, Brendan Howlin, represents a party that is (a) badly struggling in the polls, and (b) heavily dependent on public sector votes.

That scenario should make all those genuinely concerned that the country doesn't return to 'the politics of old' very nervous. Of course, with the crisis over, the issue of public sector pay would have to be revisited at some point. Public servants have done more than their fair share when it came to painful measures to address the public finances.

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