Howlin refuses to be drawn on pay
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has refused to say whether public service salaries of more than €100,000 will be on the agenda for new talks on the Croke Park agreement.
Speaking this morning, Mr Howlin confirmed the Government had decided on Tuesday to invite the Irish Congress of trade Unions to discussions on "an extension of Croke Park" aimed at achieving additional public service pay savings of €1 billion.
Mr Howlin said the Public Service Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions had last night responded positively to the invitation to talks, which are expected to get underway next week.
He said savings under Croke Park amounting to €3.8 billion gross by 2015 would not be enough, and he believed further cuts to the budgets of the high spending departments would be extremely problematical. He said the "gap to be filled" over three years to 2015 was in the order of an additional €1 billion.
The "sort of engagement" he want to see was in relation to rates of pay for Saturday and Sunday working as well as a standard rate of pay for hours between 8am and 8pm and on Saturdays and Sundays and possible alterations to working hours.
However Mr Howlin, in response to questions from Mary Lou McDonald, repeatedly refused to say if public service salaries of more then €100,000 would be on the agenda for what Ms McDonald described as "Croke Park Nua".
On a number of occasions Mr Howlin said "the greatest cohort" of such salaries was in the health service, which were necessary on a competitive basis. He said he was "not minded to destroy the public health service".
Mr Howlin said since taking office the Taoiseach's salary had been cut by 30 per cent, ministers by 25 per cent and most senior civil service salaries by 30 per cent. He said the Government strategy was to tackle high pay and social inequity was through the taxation system.
In an at times heated exchange with Ms McDonald, Mr Howlin repeated that he would "not be part of the destruction of public services" and he accused the Sinn Féin deputy of attempting "to pick out individuals and excoriate them. "I've seen you do it before", he said.
However, Ms McDonald accused Mr Howlin of referring constantly to the medical sector and refusing to address the more general issue of high pay in his own department, for example. She said Mr Howlin had refused to answer the question, as to whether high salaries would be on the agenda of "Croke Park Nua", with a simple yes or no. She was taking this as a no, she said.