Public sector sick-pay bill and quangos face squeeze
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has told his ministers to squeeze the Croke Park deal by finding more savings from the public sector sick pay bill and voluntary redundancies.
In a letter sent to all the members of the Cabinet, Mr Kenny also said he wanted to see if there were any other quangos that could be abolished to save money.
The intervention came after Mr Kenny publicly stood over the Croke Park deal until it runs out in 18 months' time.
But his letter is a clear attempt to get ministers to use the agreement to get more of the €2.25bn in savings needed for the Budget on December 5.
In a sign of the tensions that the budgetary process is creating, the suggestion that wealthy pensioners could be targeted for cutbacks sparked off a minor Coalition row.
Fine Gael junior minister Brian Hayes said yesterday that there was a well-off minority of pensioners who "possibly could pay more".
But he was strongly rebuked by Labour's Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.
"Why Minister Hayes would simply focus on richer pensioners, I'm not quite clear. He hasn't had an opportunity to brief me on his views but they are his personal views," she told RTE's 'Week in Politics'.
There was also a reference in Mr Kenny's letter sent last Friday about getting changes to the rosters of public servants "including the length of the working day and week".
However, departmental sources have rejected suggestions that proposals are going to be brought to Cabinet this week to get teachers and health service workers to work a 40-hour week.
The Irish Independent has learned that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn recently told a group of Fine Gael TDs that he would like to get another 12 hours per week from teachers.
This would bring the working week for teachers up from the current level of 22 teaching hours in the classroom. While many teachers already work in excess of these hours, it would get more work from those who are not spending time on preparing for classes or engaging in extra-curricular school activities.
However, there is no specific provision in the Croke Park Agreement for this -- so the agreement of the public sector unions would be required for such a radical change.
Last night, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said that Irish second-level teachers spent 735 hours every year in their classrooms compared to the OECD average of approximately 681 hours. But it is understood that in many other European countries, teachers are rostered to be present in school from 9am-5pm.
80 days to get it right: Shane Coleman, page 26