Taoiseach reiterates warning over public sector pay strikes

Thu, Dec 10, 2009, 00:00

TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowenrepeated his warning about public sector pay strikes.

He said he understood from media reports that the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions had signalled that it was considering a “long and sustained’’ campaign of industrial action. “I regret this development and hope that any action undertaken does not adversely impact on the delivery of public services, especially at a time when we need to ensure that we make best use of the limited resources at our disposal to protect services to the most vulnerable in our society and that we do not create obstacles to economic recovery,’’ he added.

Mr Cowen said that the Government continued to believe in the value of social dialogue as a way to maximise common understanding and engagement with all sectors.

“The inability to achieve consensus, although regrettable, does not alter the fact that the savings are essential,’’ he added.

“The Government must act in the interests of all our citizens.’’ Labour’s Róisín Shortallsaid that the Government had taken a unilateral decision that led to the collapse of the pay talks.

“In many ways, that decision by the Taoiseach sounded the death knell of social partnership,’’ she added.

“Is it not the case that the Taoiseach was within touching distance of an historic agreement that would have provided for radical reform of the public service?’’

Ms Shortall said it was known from the various documents put into the public arena in recent days that radical reform, particularly in the areas of education and health, had been signed up to and that the Taoiseach had blown it for his own political reasons.

“Is it not regrettable that he chose to put short-term political expediency ahead of the national interest?’’ she added.

Mr Cowen insisted that, on the contrary, it was not about political expediency.

“I did not, in any expedient way, seek to avoid agreement,’’ said Mr Cowen.

“What we had to have was a permanent reduction and an ability to see beyond 2010 . . . that a reduction would be of that magnitude and that further reductions would be possible and further contributions from the changed programme would be able to be made.’’ Mr Cowen said that he could understand the negotiating position of the unions.

“They had come with a very restrictive mandate and that was not to accept pay cuts, reductions in rates of pay,’’ he added.