Coalition accused of 'attacking workers'
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has staunchly defended the public sector pay deal amid accusations he would still be better-paid than the British prime minister and French president under the proposals.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said there was “nothing fair about telling workers to tighten their belts while those at the top can get on very easily with their lives”. And he accused the Government of having “a totally different attitude to the elites and those at the high level”.
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, however, Mr Kenny insisted “this deal is proportionate right across the board and is designed so frontline services would not be diminished or reduced”. He stressed the changes to the Croke Park deal had been recommended and accepted by the Labour Relations Commission. And he in turn sharply criticised Mr Adams for choosing “deliberately not to deal with our frontline service workers here in Ireland. He chooses to fly to greener pastures” in the US for medical treatment.
Raising the issue of the pay deal, Mr Adams claimed it “heaps pain on low- and middle-income workers. It does little more than tinker with excessive pay at the top.”
He hit out at the Labour Party for “attacking workers in the centenary year of the lock-out” and he asked “why are the frontline workers being left to pick up the tab?” But Mr Kenny said the Government was elected to deal with the problems in the national finances and “given that pay and pensions account for 35 per cent of expenditure, one-third of the savings will have to come from these negotiations”.
He said pay would be reduced progressively for those earning more. Those on over €65,000 would face a 5.5 per cent reduction on the first €80,000 of salary and allowances, 8 per cent for those on up to €150,000, with a 9 per cent cut for those earning up to €185,000 and 10 per cent for those on more than €185,000.
The Taoiseach said “nobody likes to announce that things have to be reduced or cut back” and paid tribute to the trade unions who stayed in the talks.
Mr Adams said he was talking about the Government’s role, and hit out at the cut the Taoiseach’s salary would take, a reduction of €20,000 to €180,000.
He said the Government “could have really tackled all those on high pay, like yourself. You still end up earning more than the British prime minister. You still end up earning more than the French president.”
But a nurse working anti-social hours has reduced Sunday pay and increments frozen, he said.
“A cut of 8 per cent means such a nurse on €35,000 will lose €2,800.”
Mr Kenny reminded Mr Adams of the Sinn Féin proposal “to cut take-home pay for public and private sector workers, frontline and back office, earning €35,000 or more”.
United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach to admit that every euro taken from a firefighter, nurse, teacher or council worker, was a euro less to be spent in businesses across the country.
Mr Kenny said Government had to borrow €12 billion this year and insisted “the deficit we have is not going to fix itself unless we all contribute to that”.