Gilmore sticks to guns on €300m cuts
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore is insisting the Government still has to make €300m in public sector pay cuts this year – even as nurses vow to strike if the Coalition votes to reduce their wages.
Mr Gilmore told the Irish Independent the Government has made it "quite clear" it needs to achieve its savings this year and €1bn by 2015.
But Mr Gilmore would not be drawn on whether the Coalition will legislate for pay cuts or changes in working conditions in the absence of agreement with the unions.
"We don't know until we've tried (agreement)," Mr Gilmore said. "We have made it clear all along that we're willing to talk directly to the trade unions."
It would also cause huge difficulties for Labour TDs if they were to vote for pay cuts or changed work practices without agreement with the unions.
The Government is expecting to pass the Croke Park legislation, involving €300m worth of cuts to public sector pay by the first week in June.
Kieran Mulvey, the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), is trying to find new ways of saving the money after the initial deal was rejected by the unions.
"Kieran Mulvey is doing that now and he'll report back to us," Mr Gilmore said. "But if any of the unions have proposals, it's quite clear that the €300m savings must be made this year, the billion by 2015. But if there are proposals we'll listen to them."
Mr Mulvey will report back to Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin on Monday on whether a deal on new savings is possible, and Mr Howlin will brief the Cabinet on Tuesday.
Mr Gilmore said that if the nursing unions had proposals, the Government would listen to them.
"If they have proposals that they want to put to Government we're open to hearing from them and to discuss them. If they have proposals we'll talk with them.
The Coalition has already started working out the detail of a contingency plan to make €300m cuts from the public sector pay bill if there is no agreement with unions on Croke Park II.
Government sources say the Cabinet will decide next Tuesday on a course of action and that would be implemented by early June.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he hoped progress could be made in the talks with the LRC.