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Government fails fairness test with Croke Park 2 - McDonald

13 April, 2013 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

As we meet this weekend the process of balloting public sector workers across the state on the Croke Park 2 deal is drawing to a conclusion.

This deal which aims to cut a further €1billion from the public sector pay bill has been described by government as equitable and fair.

In truth, it is anything but.

The government yet again has failed the fairness test; treating those at the top on excessive pay with kid gloves while dipping its hand into the pockets of low and middle income workers yet again.

The mood music for Croke Park 2, set by government and sometimes parroted by others, is that public sector workers are a protected species, a pampered lot. 

So let us today put to rest the lie that public sector workers are somehow sheltered from the same struggles as everyone else.

A lie deliberately propagated to pit workers against one another, taking the heat off the real culprits, the real waste in the system, the failure of Fine Gael and Labour to clean Fianna Fáil’s mess up.

The reality is over a third of our public servants earn the average wage or less. Eighty five per cent of the public sector work force is made up low and middle income workers. 

10 per cent of those in receipt of Family Income Supplement – paid to those on poverty wages – work in the public sector.

On average public sector workers have taken a pay reduction of 14 per cent and for some new entrants their pay has been reduced by as much as 25 per cent.

There is a small number at the top of the public service that are overpaid and over pensioned. That is the truth.

Look no further than an Toiseach or an Tánaiste, look to the Ministerial ranks and their Secretaries General for ample evidence of that.

Croke Park 2 was an opportunity for government once and for all to deal with excessive pay at the top. This was their chance and they blew it.

They will not deal with this issue, they will not really act fairly whatever the rhetoric indeed they have consistently poured scorn on Sinn Féin demands that runaway pay and pensions must be reined in.

Consider this, former Taoisigh, Tánaiste and Ministers on pensions of as much as 150 grand a year will see a mere 5% cut to their inflated incomes.

What does this mean?

Well it will leave Fine Gael’s John Bruton with 134,727 euro a year or 2,590 euro per week to live on.

It will leave Labours Dick Spring with 115,051 euro or 2,212 euro per week to scrape by on.

And Fanna Fáil’s Brian Cowen will have to struggle on with 142,653 euro or 2,743 euro each week.

A truly appalling vista!!!

Meanwhile workers on the frontline, a nurse or garda will take a hit of up to 8% and for some the cut may be higher.

Increments will be frozen, and flexible working arrangements will be undermined – a move that will worst affect lower paid women workers.

How’s that for fair?

No prizes for guessing who will be left struggling to pay their bills.

Labour and Fine Gael broke their own pay caps to pay their special advisors over the odds.

The advisor to the Minister for Social Protection – you know the one who cut child benefit, who cut payments for the unemployed, who cut the back to school clothing allowance.   The advisor guiding the minister in these decisions is paid the same as the Prime Minister of Finland!

This is just one example of government protecting the upper echelons. In total they have broken their pay cap on 12 separate occasions.

If this is how fairness looks through the eyes of Gilmore, Kenny and their cronies then we can only pray that we never witness their version of unfair.

They have subjected workers and their unions to duress and threats - take this deal or we’ll really hurt you, that has been the message.

Then they get all sensitive, The Gardaí and the teachers hurt their feelings.

They weren’t sufficiently nice, sufficiently polite at their conferences.

They aren’t prepared to roll over.

Frontline workers are at the end of their tether and they’re speaking out. Good on them.

There had been a marked reluctance by government to comment on Croke Park 2.

They said they wanted to give union members space to consider the deal.  What they meant was that they were giving the deaf ear to criticism of the deal.

Then in rides Brendan Howlin, The Labour party minister for Croke Park 2, waving a big stick. Talking tough. Showing who is boss. Deploying rhetoric worthy of his blueshirt bedfellows. 

If by chance Minister Howlin is tuned in – put the stick away and play fair.

For people who are out of work or who are struggling by on low wages in the private sector – people who may not be all that interested in what happens in the public sector – remember these cutbacks, attacks on public sector workers and reductions in staffing numbers affect the services that we all rely on.

They are the reason why you wait months for your disability allowance, why your child cannot get a long awaited health appointment.

For employers – especially in small enterprises – remember that every euro taken from the pocket of a middle income public servant is a euro out of your till.

You see we are all in this together.

The cuts and the changes in Croke Park 2 are concerns in the first instance for public sector workers and their families but the consequences of this deal will have implications well beyond that sector.

The real pay issue in the public service is the issue of pay equity.

Will government deal with that? Not on your life.

The government of political reform – as they chose to cast themselves – won’t upset the apple cart.  Happy to leave those the top cashing in with salaries in excess of the French President’s.

Trade union leaderships have taken differing views on the deal.

Many have called outright for its rejection.

Others choose to support it. Whatever their reasons, , whatever rationale they advance let no one pretend that this is a deal based on fairness or equity or any of the other honeyed words of government. 

A charge of scaremongering has been levelled against the alliance of trade unions opposing the deal.

Scaremongering?  Really?

Since when can defence of workers’ rights be described as scaremongering?

By what definition does resistance to cuts and austerity amount to scaremongering?

Would it not be fairer, more accurate, to say that those who seek passage of this deal with the ‘pass it or the government will get you’ line, are the ones closest to scaremongering?

Fine Gael and Labour, like Fianna Fáil before them; represent a political consensus for cuts. They can’t see, refuse to see beyond austerity.

Workers and their unions belong with the rest of us.

Defending citizen’s rights to public services.

Defending workers rights. 

Stronger together fighting for our future.

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