Thursday 22 February 2018

Lay-offs 'still on table' if Croke Park II rejected

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE threat of compulsory redundancies is hanging over public sector workers if Croke Park II is rejected.

The option of compulsory redundancies had been sought by the Government – but was removed in the final agreement with unions.

But Transport Minister Leo Varadkar indicated all bets are off if the deal is rejected.

"If they are part of the agreement, they get the protections of that agreement whether it comes to deployment, or redundancies or all the other protections that are there," he said.

He has previously called for compulsory redundancies to be introduced.

Under the terms of the new deal, public sector workers can be given a "voluntary departure" if they are no longer needed and it is not possible to relocate them to another job within 45km of their current office. But the Government says this is not the same as making compulsory redundancies.

Mr Varadkar declined to give a view of SIPTU president Jack O'Connor's appeal to reopen talks with nursing and garda bodies after they had pulled out of the process.

"It was never the desire of the Government to have the unions divided or to split them or to have unions left out of the process," he said. Mr Varadkar was speaking at the opening of a €15m 'Deaf Village' in Dublin's northside – which provides a swimming pool, meeting rooms and offices for 11 deaf people's organisations.

The new centre in Cabra was funded by a Celtic Tiger project that never happened – the Dublin Metro. The State paid €15m to buy a building from the Catholic Institute for Deaf People near Croke Park with the intention of turning it into an underground Metro stop.

Even though the Metro has not gone ahead, the institute was able to use the money from the building sale to create the first dedicated 'Deaf Village' in Ireland.

Another €3m was provided by the HSE with the help of the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan. The complex includes a cafe where deaf people can use sign language to order tea and coffee, and a gym used by 300 deaf people and 1,900 hearing people from the local community.

Mr Varadkar got a rapturous reception from deaf teenagers there when he managed to use sign language to tell them: "My name is Leo". He said it was a ground-breaking centre that was now employing 70 deaf and hearing people.

"It is a step-change in the quality of facilities that deaf people have at their disposal. It does show that even in tough times, what progress can be made," he said.

Mr Varadkar also backed the stance of fellow minister Joan Burton by calling for more women in the Cabinet. He said there were relatively few younger people around the cabinet table too – which also has an impact on decisions.

Brilliant

He backed Junior Minister Lucinda Creighton as a potentially "brilliant member of cabinet" – although he added that this was a matter for the Taoiseach.

"I think there should be more women in cabinet. There are four women at the cabinet table, including the Attorney General and Minister Jan O'Sullivan and that doesn't reflect our society, where over half of the population are women," he said.

Ms Burton had complained over the weekend about the gender imbalance in the Cabinet, saying that when issues such as children, care and the Magdalene Laundries were discussed, it was "surprising" because "you have a lot of men around the table and they haven't had much contact with some of these issues".

Irish Independent

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