Saturday 18 November 2017

'Ringmaster' Bruton vows to resolve jobs crisis

John Drennan

John Drennan

RICHARD Bruton has told the Sunday Independent he is the "ringmaster" who will drive the recovery of the jobs market and lead the war against the anti-competitive practices that are hampering the recovery of the Irish economy.

In an attempt to reassert his political status in the wake of the row with Labour over the reform of Joint Labour Committee wage rates, Mr Bruton also pledged to take the nanny state out of Irish employment law and end the proliferation of quangos.

The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation has already taken a lead role in relation to the quangos.

He has already abolished the controversial National Consumer Agency, while four other employment quangos -- including the deeply unpopular National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) -- are in an advanced stage of being merged with the Labour Relations Commission.

However, despite his quango-busting activism, Mr Bruton emphasised: "The prime task of this Government is to resolve the jobs crisis and I am the ringmaster."

In the wake of the High Court judgment essentially abolishing the old JLC structure, the minister could afford to be sanguine about his recent high-profile spat with Labour.

"If reform were easy, Fianna Fail would have been doing it for years."

Mr Bruton added that such was the urgency of the need to reform all aspects of governance that this Government did not "have the luxury of conflict avoidance".

However, in the wake of his ultimately successful resolution of the JLC issue, Mr Bruton moved swiftly to scotch claims that he was "the enemy of the working man".

Instead, he claimed: "The starting point of everything I do is that we have lost 335,000 jobs and 263,000 of those workers are below 30. There is no greater form of deprivation than having 363,000 people pushed out of work."

The minister was also critical of the the belief that young people are going into welfare as a form of "lifestyle choice".

"It is not attractive to be idle. Three to four years ago, none of these young people were idle. There is no evidence that young people, given the opportunity, are work-shy."

Mr Bruton made it clear that he intends to spearhead an autumn drive against overly expensive legal fees, the "blocking out of new entrants into medicine", excessive charges for waste and too much bureaucratic interference in compliant small businesses.

He is particularly anxious to ensure that barristers will have to work harder and charge less under a Government that is "planning a rake of new reforms" as part of its "war" with "uncompetitive practice in sheltered professions".

In particular, Mr Bruton warned that the Competition Authority Report into the legal profession, which has been "gathering dust" for almost a decade, would have to be speedily implemented.

When it comes to reform, "the law is particularly immovable", but Mr Bruton expects "a major reform of the fees structure and sole-trader status of barristers" to be completed by September.

The minister also warned the legal profession there would have to be fundamental structural changes in how they operated to create "a competitive market structure".

He has also vowed "to hunt down excessive costs" in areas, such as domestic waste, which are still not competitive.

"Every international economic commentator says the Irish consumer is not well served."

In what will come as a relief to many small businesses, Mr Bruton warned that the current level of regulation had become excessive.

In an implicit rebuke to the NERA, he also added that companies which are basically compliant with the law were still exper- iencing "a very high rate of inspection".

Sunday Independent

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