Sir, Minister Brendan Howlin spoke on Radio Kerry on Wednesday last and criticised those who chose to leave the Croke Park talks. He said some workers didn't want to give 'a cent' and that, while there were going to be cuts involved, it was going to be 'fair'.
This was very well chosen language which gave the impression that some workers were very unreasonable. They didn't want to give 'a cent' and things would be 'fair'. Who could be so pig headed when such principles were the base line in those negotiations?
He berated those who left the talks, but failed to mention that his leader, Taoiseach Enda Kenny stated publicly, that if the talks didn't go the Government's way, they would legislate for their desired outcome. Now that's unreasonable. Were these true negotiations, if you hold a gun to workers' heads? Workers' representatives have already thrown in the towel. They seem committed to giving more away, not negotiating a 'fair' settlement for their oppressed members. It seems to me that unions are defunct.
'Fair' is a word that politicians should be banned from using. Is it fair to use our taxes to pay a debt not of our making? Very little in the budgets over the past number of years was 'fair'. Most independent commentators have a view that they were disproportionately unfair on the less well off. The gap between rich and poor has widened even more in this recession.
Public servants (I detest the use of the word 'servants' to describe any group of workers) get paid for work done, just like the plumber, the dentist, the shop assistant or the politician. Their work has value and they pass on this value every time they spend their wages. This is what sustains other workers in their jobs. They are not free loaders. A politician's hour of work is hardly of more value than that of a nurse.The semi-state sector avoided many of the cuts that the public servants endured in the last session of Croke Park. Will the same apply again? While many in the private sector have lost jobs and had cuts, they weren't made redundant by your average public servant. Many in the private sector have not endured cuts. Some have even had pay rises. Why scapegoat one group of workers, who do their day's work in most cases conscientiously and provide the services to educate, protect and nurse all in society .
The public service have had a pay cut of about 15 per cent and then a pay freeze. They have not had a pay rise in five years and now they see that this is going to be extended to at least eight years. On top of that, inflation of two per cent per year has further eroded the value of the remainder of their salaries, so now they are down about one quarter in value compared to five years ago. The government heap tax upon tax with increases in general taxation and new taxes in the form of water and a wealth tax. If ever there was a misnomer for a tax, surely calling property tax a wealth tax is such a one.
When we thought the oppression of workers couldn't get worse, we now descend into a form of slavery where they have to work extra hours for no payment . Where are all the laws protecting workers now? We are going backwards in industrial relations? The right to a weekend with your family now has little or no value for front line workers. While working in the Garda Reserve and internships is voluntary, this new scheme to make workers do extra free hours will be compulsory. Is this not a form of slavery?
Workers should put by one cent in the hope that, if they meet Minister Brendan Howlin, he will be satisfied with that contribution. I am only taking the man at his word. I am a generous as the next man Brendan!
Finally, a word to those who see public servants as fair game; we would do well to remember the quotation attributed to Martin Niemoller: 'They came for the socialists ...the trade unionists ... the Jews and I did not speak out . Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.'