Friday 23 February 2018

State is not an ATM, Donohoe warns ahead of talks on new deal

Sean Sherlock Picture: Tom Burke
Sean Sherlock Picture: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said the public sector pay report will not lead to the opening of an "ATM".

Mr Donohoe said the report makes clear that any pay increases in the future must be linked to the delivery of reform and improvements in productivity.

The new pay talks are due to begin by the end of the month, however, Mr Donohoe said he would not he putting a deadline on their completion.

"There is not the prospect of an ATM being created in relation to this for the simple reason that the demands in relation to resources available are just hugely significant," he said.

The Dublin Central TD said he expects the negotiation process to be "very challenging", adding that it will affect over 300,000 public servants.

"The demands upon available resources in the State are very, very, very large," Mr Donohoe said.

"Every euro that is available to the Exchequer can only be spent once. I face every day, as Public Expenditure and Reform Minister, continued demands for more investment in public services and this is in the background of what is happening with Brexit," he said.

Mr Donohoe said the report differentiates clearly in relation to pre and post-2013 employees regarding pensions.

But he would not say whether new recruits will have to make greater pension contributions.

"Our overall approach will be to look to agree a settlement that puts public pensions on an affordable and fair basis."

The report by the Public Sector Pay Commission, which was predominantly kept under wraps, was detailed by Mr Donohoe at yesterday's Cabinet meeting.

Fianna Fáil's public expenditure spokesperson Dara Calleary said it is essential the talks with unions must proceed swiftly.

"The Government needs to move swiftly towards initiating talks with the unions with a firm goal of achieving a sustainable basis for a strong public service. The public who use these critical services across such areas as health and education, as well as the diligent staff who work in them, deserve a financially viable agreement," Mr Calleary said.

"Continued progress in delivering public services, evidence-based pay changes and setting out a strong foundation for future financing should be the shared goal of all parties going into the negotiations. I hope all parties fully engage in the upcoming process with a view to achieving that objective."

Stalling

Labour Party TD Seán Sherlock accused the Government on stalling on the issue.

"For months the Labour Party has called on the Government to move on opening discussions to put in place a longer-term deal, delivering pay restoration, with Lansdowne Road folded into it," Mr Sherlock said.

"The minister has been stalling on this issue, using the Public Pay Commission to kick the can down the road on pay restoration.

"The Government has been sticking its head in the sand on this issue, and repeating ad nauseam - 'the Lansdowne Road Agreement is the only show in town'. Well, that mantra isn't good enough anymore."

Irish Independent

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