Kenny agrees to meet unions


Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he hopes to meet the public service unions in the near future to discuss the Croke Park agreement.

He said he would be accompanied by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.

“The Croke Park agreement will be with us until 2013,’’ he added.

Mr Kenny, who was replying to Opposition leaders’ questions in the Dáil today, said independent analysis of the agreement had shown up favourably in respect of the implementation of roster changes and redeployment of personnel. “It will form part of the analysis in preparation for the budget of 2013,’’ he added.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin pressed the Taoiseach to say if the agreement would be honoured. There was no sense of clarity on the issue from the Government and this was undermining Mr Kenny’s authority, he said.

He said there had been a “significant burst of incoherence’’ from the Government over the past days and weeks. “We have a bombardment of different messages from different Government Ministers on very fundamental issues,’’ added Mr Martin.

Mr Kenny said there was going to be a “difficult and challenging budget’’ to draft for 2013. "In regard to your question about Minister needing to engage, this is a requirement for every Minister,’’ he added.

Independent TD Shane Ross said the issue of public service increments was important. He asked if they were being paid at the very top end of the civil service who were drawing six-figure sums. “If that is the case, then it is an argument in itself for the reopening of the Croke Park agreement,’’ he added.

Mr Kenny said that 70 per cent of public servants receiving increments were on the middle to lower end of the scale.

Earlier, Mr Kenny refused to comment on speculation over the contents of the next Budget, saying it would not be drafted in public. He also refused to comment  on the apparent rift  within the Government over the Croke Park deal after Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore of Labour rejected demands from two Fine Gael Ministers for key elements of the agreement to be scrapped.

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting in Dublin this morning, Mr Kenny said: “We are not going to speculate on anything to do with the budget. That’s a matter for the Cabinet – they haven’t turned their thoughts to that yet.

“This is a budget that will not be drafted in public,” Mr Kenny said.

Yesterday, Mr Gilmore had said it was Government policy to honour the agreement in its entirety until it expires in 2014 and said anyone suggesting otherwise does not reflect the collective Cabinet view. He was speaking after Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar called for the suspension of public service pay increments and Minister for Health James Reilly raised the prospect of cutting overtime and premium pay.

Questioned about Mr Varadkar’s remarks, Mr Gilmore said he would prefer if individual Ministers did not step forth “every Monday morning” with a view on Croke Park or any other fiscal issue.

“As far as the Government and its relationship with public service unions is concerned, that’s governed by the terms of the Croke Park agreement, which the Government intends to honour and to implement in full,” he said.

The suggestions made by Mr Varadkar and Mr Reilly would breach the pact, but Mr Gilmore said the Government will be keeping its side of the bargain. He said reporters were making a song and dance of the issue when asked whether he would be raising the matter with the Taoiseach. “I wouldn’t exaggerate at all,” he said in Luxembourg on the sidelines of an EU meeting. “There is an agreement . . . The Government is honouring the agreement and intends to.”

He said the deal does not provide for the withdrawal of increments but he also argued it was not the case that a split was emerging between the Coalition over Croke Park. “The agreement is quite clear in respect of what falls within it or what doesn’t fall within it,” said the Tánaiste. “What we do . . . is we look at the text of the agreement.”

Asked if it was permitted to defer increments, Mr Gilmore said the Government always intended to honour the deal.

“Frankly, I would prefer if individual Ministers didn’t get up every Monday morning and express a point of view – a personal point of view – on [the] Croke Park agreement or budget formation or whatever. And that where issues like this have to be addressed, that they’re addressed collectively by Government,” he said.

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