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Howlin under fire from own party over public sector threat

A LABOUR MEP has attacked Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin for adopting a hardline stance on public sector workers' pay while failing to tackle politicians' pensions.

Mr Howlin's warning that public sector workers face a 7pc pay cut if they reject the Croke Park II deal was described as evidence the Government fears a No vote.

Labour Party MEP Phil Prendergast said it was "outrageous" for Mr Howlin to say he will bring in legislation for pay cuts when nothing is being done about ministerial pensions.

Writing in yesterday's Irish Independent, the minister consciously decided to intervene in the debate on the plan, with union members currently voting on the proposal.

But unions opposed to the deal said the warning was "scaremongering" and "interference" on his part.

Ms Prendergast said legislation should be brought in to tackle what retired politicians are earning.

"To hear Brendan Howlin saying that if the public service doesn't accept the terms of Croke Park II, then legislation will be put in place to take 7pc, I think that is so outrageous when legislation cannot be enacted to take some of the absolutely obscene bonuses and pensions that retired Oireachtas members have," she said.

"If they can bring in legislation for the Universal Social Charge and to take money from people dead or alive, I think they should be able to enact legislation that stops the obscenity of what some politicians are earning," she added.

A group of four unions calling for a No vote on Croke Park II said Mr Howlin's comments show the Government fears a No vote is on the cards. The Civil and Public Service Union, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, UNITE and the Irish Medical Organisation have combined to form the Public Sector Alliance.

"It is extraordinary that a member of the Labour Party would threaten lower income workers while consistently refusing to ensure higher earners carry their share of the economic crisis through the introduction of a third tax band for earnings over €100,000," a spokesperson said.

Rejection

Mr Howlin said the reform measures, including extra hours, reduced numbers and less use of agency workers, reduce the cash required from public servants' pockets. And he said rejection of the deal will cost workers even more.

"In the absence of these measures a straight pay cut would require a greater ask to reach the same target. Public servants that under this agreement face a gross reduction in pay of say 4pc could potentially see that increase to 7pc in the absence of an agreement," he said.

Irish Independent