Pay Talks Go Down In Flames
Deaglán de Bréadún
What a mess! There was a deal in the making with the unions but the way it was presented meant it was never going to be acceptable to public opinion. As a Fianna Fáil source put it, the unpaid leave was really “short-time working”.
What’s in a name? If it had been dubbed “short-time working” it would have been much easier for the public to swallow, whatever about the union membership. And why a second day of strike action was planned for yesterday is not exactly clear. The indications are that it would not have received the same level of support as the previous strike.
Backbenchers in FF, who are staring into the electoral abyss on a daily basis, were badly rattled by suggestions that the unpaid leave plan would only save €800m. This was 0.5m short of the 1.3bn target and the obvious implication was that a goodly proportion of this would come out of Social Welfare, the client-base of many backbenchers.
The spectacle of a union leader telling people to keep their mouth shut is not good for the image of the movement. But maybe this is not bad news for the Government. They will now presumably impose a pay-cut in line with their budgetary target and may even be seen as giving decisive leadership. Opposing the unions is always a popular move with the generality of the news media and will play fairly well with public opinion in its present form.