Major row likely at Cabinet over Garda pay increases

Several Ministers say they will resist any cuts to spending programmes agreed for 2017

Ministers Finian McGrath and Leo Varadkar have both said they are opposed to cuts to their budgets to facilitate additional pay increases above the €850 million already committed in the Lansdowne Road agreement. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ministers Finian McGrath and Leo Varadkar have both said they are opposed to cuts to their budgets to facilitate additional pay increases above the €850 million already committed in the Lansdowne Road agreement. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A major row is expected at Cabinet on Tuesday over whether the Government should accept in full a Labour Court recommendation to give special pay increases to gardaí.

A number of Ministers have declared they will fight any cuts to spending programmes agreed for next year in order to fund pay increases for gardaí over and above the Lansdowne Road agreement.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said yesterday he would resist any attempt to cut the social protection budget to facilitate additional pay increases for public servants above the €850 million already committed in Lansdowne Road.

Mr Varadkar said: “800,000 people, including carers, people with disabilities, the sick and lone parents, are getting their first increase since 2009 from March 10th, but they will still be €10.50 a week worse off than they were before the crisis started.

“Carers, lone parents and people with disabilities can’t go on strike. It is the Government’s job to ensure that those who can don’t take all the benefits of the recovery for themselves,” said Mr Varadkar.

Similar views were expressed by Independent Minister of State Finian McGrath, who sits at Cabinet: “I have a concern about rolling over to people who issue threats.”

Lansdowne Road agreement

Mr McGrath said he was a strong supporter of the Lansdowne Road agreement, and the vast majority of trade unions had agreed to a process that would involve pay restoration of €290 million in a year.

“I don’t think we can go outside it. We need to ensure that we have the money for improved public services. Remember that is what people voted for in the general election,” he said.

The junior Health Minister said he was determined to protect the extra resources allocated to disability, health and cystic fibrosis in the budget.

“There is no guarantee what will happen at the Cabinet meeting. I am not going to stab the INTO members in the back,” he added.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said yesterday that changing the Lansdowne Road agreement would jeopardise the financial security of the State

A possible compromise would involve the extra €50 million or so required to fund the Garda deal next year coming out of the Department of Justice budget of €2.2 billion, leaving other departments untouched.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe may insist that the bulk of the money should come from the Department of Justice budget.

Mr Donohoe will also this week attempt to convince the public service unions to stick with the Lansdowne Road agreement, and he has asked for a meeting with them later in the week to discuss the implications of the Labour Court recommendation in relation to the Garda dispute.

Available money

In an interview for the Week In Politics on RTÉ television Mr Harris insisted the Government could only work with the money it had available and that the Lansdowne Road agreement still stood.

He said the money to finance the Garda deal would have to be found within “existing Government resources”.

Mr Harris also said investment in public services, pay restoration for all workers and increases in take-home pay was what people wanted from this year’s budget.

At the weekend Independent Minister for Communications Denis Naughten expressed similar sentiments and added it would be “very hard to see this particular Government remain in place” if the Lansdowne Road agreement was breached on a significant scale.

He said the agreement was central to the confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fáil which was keeping the Government in place.

“If that goes off the table, the Government will be hostage to fortune in relation to every single pay claim that comes in, and we will not be in a position to improve the quality of services across the country in relation to public services.

“The fact is the vast majority of us who have been elected were elected on the basis of improving those services,” said Mr Naughten.