Coalition not trying to 'unpick' deal

Mon, Dec 12, 2011, 00:00

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has insisted the Government is not seeking to "unpick" the Croke Park agreement, which protects public service pay and pensions and said its terms could only be changed by negotiation.

Asked if increments would be paid to public sector workers, Mr Gilmore said increments were part of the Croke Park agreement, which would be honoured by the Government.

Mr Gilmore said the agreement was already delivering on public service reform, and “major changes” would have to take place in future. The Government was keen that would be done in co-operation with public sector workers, he added.

“The Government is not seeking to unpick the Croke Park agreement. The Government is committed to working the Croke Park agreement and to honouring the terms of the Croke Park agreement…We will make it work,” he said ahead of the launch of the We the Citizens final report in Dublin this morning.

“The Government is keen that that will be done in co-operation with the staff who work in the public service and that is why we’re honouring the Croke Park agreement and why we will make the Croke Park agreement work.”

Mr Gilmore said lower levels of growth would “of course change lots of parameters”, but the Government “has no intention of resiling” from the agreement.

“The Croke Park agreement will be honoured by the Government and the only way that the Croke Park agreement can be changed is by negotiation.”

Asked if increments would be paid, he said: "They are part of the Croke Park agreement, and we will honour the Croke Park agreement. Any change can only come about by negotiation."

He was speaking in the wake comments by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte suggesting the Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform might have to be renegotiated.

Speaking last night on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Mr Rabbitte said “it may well be the case, especially depending on how things go in the euro zone, that we will have to sit down and talk to the unions about renegotiating that agreement”.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor said today he was not “unduly concerned” by Mr Rabbitte's comments.

“What the Minister said last night doesn’t represent any significant departure from what’s already there. He acknowledged that the Croke Park agreement is delivering. The public service now has less than 300,000 people and another 6000 people will be leaving this year,” Mr O'Connor said.

“We are in extremely difficult times. There's a lot of loose talk in the media in order to distract attention from the fact that wealthy people in this country really aren’t contributing anything additional as a result of Budget 2012. In a year when the multiple by which those in the top quartile of incomes exceed those at the bottom increased by another 25 per cent.”

Asked on Morning Ireland whether increments costing €250 million a year were sustainable, Mr O’Connor said they were part of the pay of people in the public service, “pay that has been cut by an average of 14.5 per cent.”

“Is it sustainable to have a situation where we can still afford the luxury of not having a wealth tax and can still afford the luxury of not asking of people earning in excess of €100,000 a year not to contribute any more and continue to subsidise pernsion contributions in excess of €100,000 at the marginal rate of tax.

“I'm not expecting any change in the Croke Park agreement as long as people in the public sector deliver change as they have done," he said.