Saturday 24 August 2019

Minister's admission on HSE pay signals auction politics still in vogue

On Monday morning Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar stated that workers in the HSE had cause for a pay claim and that there was scope in the public finances to address the issue.

Certainly after years of biting austerity there is no denying that the Minister was speaking the truth about workers having cause for pay claims, but he has opened pandora's box in this regard.

You can imagine the scene in trade union offices across the country, officials jumping up and down with delight and immediately taking their pay claims from the deep freeze and thawing them out.

The jubilation in Liberty Hall, traditional home of many of the trade unions, may have actually registered on the richter scale.

So was the Minister being genuine or is this the start of auction politics ahead of the next General Election.

If the nurses and doctors deserve a pay claim and ultimately get one, what about teachers, gardai, prison officers, bus drivers, social workers, civil servants.

Surely if nurses and doctors deserve a pay claims, thousands and thousands of public and civil servants deserve a pay claim.

If they all deserve a pay claim, what about social welfare recipients, carers, pensioners.

Private sector workers can't get pay claims through the government, but they could get their Universal Social Charge reduced or eliminated and if they do, those in the employ of the state will get a double bonus from the government, an increase in pay and a reduction in taxes.

Such rewards point to one thing, political expedience, the government used austerity measures on the public to get us out of a bailout and now they are in election cycle and are going to use the money to win votes prior to the next election.

Clearly none of the mistakes of the past have been learned, political party interest and ambition comes before the interest of the nation.

Fine Gael in opposition were scornful of the decisions made by Fianna Fail and Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, decisions such as benchmarking for the public sector.

No one is saying that public sector employees do not deserve pay claims or forget that they have had to pay pension levies, while new entrants in teaching and nursing are lower paid that their more seasoned colleagues.

However public sector employees were not alone in shouldering the burden of austerity, the introduction of the Universal Social Charge, Property tax and water charges hammered households throughout the country.

It is only right that when the public finances have been improving as they have over the past year, that some of money taken off workers should be given back, but surely it should be given back in a fair, equitable and sustainable manner across all sectors of society.

Minister Vadrakar's comments rang of auction politics of vote buying. I thought that perhaps we might have learned from the mistakes of the past, but it seems politics hasn't changed especially on the eve of an election.

Irish Independent