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Anti-family Croke Park 'voted down by women'


Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin

THE Government is examining whether the Croke Park II deal was voted down by women with children because of its adverse impact on childcare.

The large No vote in sectors that employ high numbers of women, such as teaching, health and clerical positions, is being scrutinised.

A large number of the lower-paid workers in the public sector, who were largely unaffected by the pay cuts, are women.

Coalition officials believe it was possibly not the proposed cuts to pay packets in Croke Park II, but the extra working hours and the disruption to the childminding arrangements of parents that brought the deal down.

The move comes as the Coalition backtracked on plans that parents getting a debt deal from banks would have to give up their jobs if childcare costs exceed wages.

Signals from Taoiseach Enda Kenny of his disapproval of the measure, which was seen as 'anti-women', resulted in it being dropped.

The Coalition is ramping up the pressure on unions to strike a deal on Croke Park by adopting a hard line on suggestions the €300m savings can come from elsewhere.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar told the Irish Independent he is "totally against" the funding having to be found in other areas, rather than from the public sector payroll.

The Government continues to call for reflection on the outcome of the vote.

The Coalition is trying to work out why the deal collapsed, focusing particularly on unions that usually accept pay deals, but rejected this agreement.

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin said yesterday that "different workers voted for different reasons" against the agreement.

He indicated those on high pay voted against it because it hit their earnings.

"Others who were minimally affected by it, voted on it for other reasons," he said.

Mr Howlin denied the Croke Park II deal would adversely affect work-life balance in the public sector, which he said would still be "the best available to any worker in the land".

Aside from the pay cuts at the upper end and the reductions in overtime and premium payments, the deal contains a number of measures increasing the working hours across the public service:

• Those currently working 35 hours or less will in future work a minimum of 37 hours.

• Those working between 35 and under 39 hours will in future work 39 hours.

• Additional hours would also facilitate reductions in public service numbers.

• Revisions to flexi-time arrangements and work sharing patterns.

• Revisions to redeployment provisions

The measures were aimed at an increase in productivity as well as a significant reduction in overtime and agency costs.

Mr Varadkar's comments indicate Fine Gael is not for watering down the savings required. He said the result of the ballot creates a "lot of uncertainty" for the Government, the public sector and society.

"I am totally against people suggesting that those savings should be found from other sectors. They do need to come from the public sector payroll and pensions bill but we just need to work out exactly how that will be done," he told the Irish Independent.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore linked finding a resolution to the impasse to exiting the bailout.

He said the Government was not going to "put at risk" what has already been achieved.

"We are seven months from exiting the bailout," he said.

Mr Gilmore and Mr Howlin both refused to rule out legislating for public sector pay cuts in the wake of the rejection of the Croke Park II deal.

Also yesterday, the publication of the Personal Insolvency Guidelines saw a massive climb-down on a controversial plan to force the second earner in a home to give up their job if the childcare costs exceeds the second income.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter denied yesterday there was any political pressure brought to bear on the new Insolvency Service to ditch the childcare guideline.

"There is no question or any issue of Government pressure. What the Government was involved in was a consultative process," he said.

Irish Independent