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Government ignored warnings over decentralisation debacle – Ó Caoláin

28 August, 2007

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "a debacle" the Government's handling of decentralisation following the Labour Court ruling that FÁS cannot link promotion of staff to their willingness to relocate to the proposed new FÁS headquarters in Birr, Co. Offaly. Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Government had ignored repeated warnings from the trade unions and Opposition parties that this would be the outcome.

The Sinn Féin Dáil leader said, "From the beginning the Government claimed that its decentralisation programme was voluntary. But it quickly became clear that some State agencies were linking promotion prospects for staff to their willingness to relocate. This prompted industrial action by SIPTU, representing staff in FÁS, in 2006. As Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson I raised this matter repeatedly in the Finance and Public Service Committee and on the floor of the Dáil. I commend SIPTU for persisting in their campaign and for winning this important Labour Court case.

"Despite all the warnings that it was unjust, and would be untenable, to force staff to move by making their promotion prospects dependent on locating outside Dublin, the Government allowed FÁS to press ahead. Finance Minister Brian Cowen told the Dáil in May 2006 that they were trying to get agreement with the trade unions that 'promotions policy will be affected by the reality of decentralisation'. This should never have been attempted as it was both unfair and unattainable.

"The Government must now ensure that all State agencies abide by the Labour Court ruling and that relocation for workers in State agencies, as well as in the civil service, is entirely voluntary. This was the promise from the start and it should be fulfilled. The Government needs to implement a fair and rational decentralisation programme that benefits host communities, our overcrowded capital and relocated workers alike." ENDS

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