Thursday 17 October 2019

Howlin dampens public sector hopes of bonanza

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin
Joan Burton: lower income earners most likely to benefit

Niall O'Connor

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has warned he is not prepared to repeat the mistakes of Fianna Fáil by introducing pay hikes which are based on a "false premise".

Mr Howlin has moved to temper the expectations of 300,000 public servants, who will see their pay partially restored after seven years of austerity.

Public sector unions will enter today's talks with a series of demands, including the abolition of the deeply unpopular pension levy and the introduction of flat-rate pay rises for low and middle-income workers.

But writing exclusively in today's Irish Independent, Mr Howlin said the talks must be based on "realism".

And he added that the restoration of pay "will not be as much as some might wish".

The senior Labour Party minister heaped praise on public servants, who he said "have done what their country needed of them" while their counterparts abroad chose to strike.

But Mr Howlin said the Government does not have a "greenfield site" for a new pay deal and is not prepared to scupper the economic recovery.

In a clear indication that the Government will enter the talks with its own set of demands, Mr Howlin said workers must be willing to increase productivity and adapt to future reforms.

"Reform is the new normal and will be driven into the future, as it will be in the private sector, by issues like how we use data and information technology to drive further productivity gains," Mr Howlin said.

Meanwhile, business groups have said it is "too early" for wage increases in any sector.

Irish Independent

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