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Saturday 25 January 2020

TDs angry at 'attempts to buy peace with unions'

FG backbenchers deeply unhappy at 'overly generous terms on offer'

Eoghan Murphy TD has criticised Fine Gael's mentality
Eoghan Murphy TD has criticised Fine Gael's mentality

DANIEL McCONNELL Political Correspondent

Significant anger and concern among Fine Gael backbenchers has emerged over the Government's ongoing attempts to "buy industrial peace at all costs" with trade unions.

The news comes as it can be revealed that any union signing up to the revised deal will be protected from the harsh terms of legislation, even if a majority of unions reject the deal again.

This is a major shift in the Government's position – only last month it said it needed a majority of Congress for the deal to be passed.

As crunch talks between the Government and health and education unions reconvene later today, many within FG are deeply unhappy and "very worried" at the "overly generous terms" on offer.

A host of FG TDs have this weekend broken ranks to raise their concerns about the process, which some say is protecting one sector in society over another, which they say is deeply unfair.

Dublin South East TD Eoghan Murphy said: "I thought Croke Park II was a very good deal for the public sector. I am worried that what is now being talked about is an even better deal for the public sector.

"It makes me very uncomfortable that Social Partnership is stronger now than it ever was. Social Partnership was never transparent, this is not transparent.

"I cannot understand why we can afford such special protection to one group in the workforce but not others. We are buying industrial peace and delaying the chaos. We should publish the legislation now."

Wicklow TD Simon Harris added: "I have always been critical of behind-closed-doors deals. Achieving the cash saving is only one element. There has to be real reform. The upper echelons have to do their part in the heavy lifting, which they didn't do under Croke Park I. Where is the actual reform?"

Kerry South TD Brendan Griffin said: "My big concern is that those at the top would not pull their weight enough. The price being paid for industrial peace is a very high one, but while I support a deal, I have big questions on the issue of reform, and I have no faith in what is happening."

Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell, who was scathing in her criticism of Croke Park I, said: "I would be worried if we are just going through the motions and not really making progress. We have to get €300m from pay and I am worried, now the deal failed, that we won't be able to get it. How are we to get the €300m if we are giving ground on a more generous deal?"

She said reform was essential and had to be tackled.

Galway East TD Paul Connaughton said the €300m savings target this year and the €1bn by 2015 had to be "real savings" and had to be maintained. "There can be no falling back," he said.

The TDs' concerns come as Robert Watt, the secretary-general in Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's department, delivered a devastating critique of the failings and shortcomings in the public sector at a business conference.

In his address, he said: "Someone said to me once that the perfect civil service career is to play 40 games, score no goals, concede no goals, win no matches, lose no matches, draw all your games and they will make you secretary-general. And there is an element of truth to that statement."

He added: "We need to make the structural changes. We need new leadership."

Irish Independent

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