Government should act and ditch Croke Park deal
But before current trade union leaders presume to don the mantle of Larkin and all he stood for, they might stop to ponder this question: if Larkin were around today which causes would he champion? Where would he see the greatest injustices?
The stark facts are that the Government’s protestations about “protecting the most vulnerable” and the trade unions’ espousal of “social solidarity” hold no water. The reality is that the most powerful interests have won out by a country mile. The Croke Park agreement represents a continuation of the social partnership process that ultimately failed as an instrument of distributive justice.
But wait a minute: am I not missing something? Should I not recognise and be grateful that Croke Park is “enabling flexibility” and “ensuring industrial peace”?
This part of the official narrative is hard to take seriously.
Flexibility has been a way of life and the ultimate key to survival for 20 years in the private sector and more recently in semi-State companies, such as Aer Lingus or the ESB, as they feel the heat of competition. Flexibility was paid for handsomely in the infamous benchmarking deal, but never delivered. Commitments under Croke Park amount to paying for flexibility a second time – Joe O’Toole’s second visit to the ATM, as it were.
Not so long ago, just before Christmas 2009, a union leader, Liam Doran, politely told us to “back off” and keep our “mouths shut”. He was reacting to public anger over a leaked union proposal that public servants should get an additional 12 days’ annual leave as part of the unfolding deal.
About the same time, a stream of trade union leaders threatened to “ the government out of power” (Larry Broderick), to initiate a go-slow programme across the public service (Jack O’Connor) and so on.
Anyone who had the temerity to challenge the hegemony of the unions or who decried the inefficiencies, waste of public money, absenteeism and overtime rackets and other shortcomings of the public service was framed as engaging in “a campaign of vilification” (Sheila Nunan of the INTO) and of bordering on “incitement to hatred” by David Begg.
Now that the Croke Park deal is under pressure, the guns are coming out again but the well has now run dry. The ATM is empty.
In addition to “protecting the most vulnerable”, “facilitating flexibility” and “delivering industrial peace”, another much-used construct has been “legitimate entitlements”. When exit packages for secretaries general and others, one of which carried a value of €5 or €6 million, were questioned, we were asked to accept that these people have “legitimate entitlements”.
Similarly with medical consultants and allowances across the public service. Well, everyone’s legitimate expectations have been dashed, many to smithereens. A friend of mine saw his pension cut overnight to 2 per cent of its value and now sees it raided by the Government to fund a “jobs programme”.
It is time for the Government to snap out of its denial and invoke clause 1.28. The country cannot afford to maintain the Croke Park agreement until 2014, and its inherent unfairness is deeply damaging to society. The agreement is fundamentally flawed on economic and moral grounds.
Dr Eddie Molloy is a consultant in strategy, change management and innovation