Farm Ireland

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Unions stalling REPS payouts claims ICSA

Declan O'Brien

Industrial action by civil servants is delaying payment of more than €60m to 10,000 farmers in REPS 4, the ICSA has claimed.

Of the 29,000 farmers who joined REPS 4, only 19,000 had been paid by the end of March, the farmer body maintained.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said the delay in paying the remaining farmers was causing severe financial distress for families.

"Every day, I get more and more complaints from farmers in extremely stressful situations whose cash flow is in a terrible state," Mr Gilmartin said.

"Many of these farmers have been waiting on cheques of somewhere in the region of €6,000 to €10,000. Banks won't extend their overdrafts and credit is nowhere to be found. In some cases there are problems with basic household bills due to the delays," he maintained.

Mr Gilmartin said poor industrial relations within the Department of Agriculture had added to the delays in clearing REPS cheques.

The retirement of senior officials at local centres meant some Department offices didn't have staff of the required level to sign off on REPS plans.

It has been suggested that efforts to promote personnel on a temporary basis to fill these posts were blocked by the unions.

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"While the spotlight has been on the passport office, farmers have also been hit," said Mr Gilmartin. "Industrial action has resulted in a lack of flexibility whereby there has been a refusal to cooperate with the signing off of plans and there has been resistance to the need for re-deployment of staff."

It is understood the problem is particularly acute in the western counties, especially Cork, Galway, Mayo and Donegal.

"In these regions, where single payments are lower than average, the REPS scheme is particularly important and the numbers involved are greater," Mr Gilmartin explained.

"It is to be hoped that talks between Government and unions will pave the way for a speedy payment of all outstanding monies owed under REPS.

"I would urge Minister Smith to do everything in his power to ensure the necessary staff numbers are put in place according to where the need is greatest."

Mr Gilmartin said he had several meetings since the beginning of the year with officials and the minister to emphasise the seriousness of the situation.

Irish Independent