Gilmore says future talks with unions will be on pay rises

Tánaiste wants to see abolition of emergency legislation under which public pay was cut

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who said today the point of economic policy was to create jobs and improve living standards for everyone. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who said today the point of economic policy was to create jobs and improve living standards for everyone. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The next time the Government discusses pay with public service unions it will be with a view to increasing, not cutting, wages, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said today.

Addressing delegates at the Impact conference in Killarney, Co Kerry this morning, Mr Gilmore said he also looked forward to the day when the financial emergency legislation, under which the current and the previous governments reduced public service pay, was abolished.

Impact is the largest public sector union in the State.

Mr Gilmore said while competitiveness was important to support exports that created employment and generated income, the point of economic policy was to create jobs and improve living standards for everyone.

“Rising wages are a sign of a healthy economy,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said that as economic recovery took hold, the country should “look forward” to seeing wages increase and living standards improve.

“That’s one of the results of the recovery. Yes, we have to do it in a sustainable way, in both the public sector and the private sector ensuring that jobs are protected and the prospect of new employment is secure.”

He also said if the fruits of recovery were to be shared, and if economic recovery was to be managed through negotiation and dialogue, “then we have to have a robust system of collective bargaining and protection of workers’ rights”.

Mr Gilmore said when prosperity returned, the beneficiaries had to be those in the middle and at the bottom and not just those at the top.

“That means that as we emerge from the crisis, there has to be a social dividend that improves the lives, and the opportunities, and the security of working people and their families because they are the people whose sacrifice made recovery possible.”

Mr Gilmore also said just as sustainable employment and decent wages were fundamental to people’s security, so too were public services.

“We need to return to the task of building up our public services. But investment and reform are not alternatives. We have to look at new ways of expanding services.”

He said this was why he supported the plan to introduce free GP care for children under the age of six.

Responding to the Tánaiste, Impact general secretary Shay Cody said it was possible at times of great crisis to plan for a better future.

He said the most fundamental criticism the union made of Government was it did not set out a clear vision of what sort of a country it wished to have after economic recovery.

“It is obvious that some in Irish political life and commentary life want to restore our country to what it was before the crash and that would not be acceptable,” he said.

“We must build a society that looks more like Berlin than Boston. A society with affordable housing, decent health services - without the Dutch model of private insurance companies - vibrant local government and a well-resourced education system.

“In short, a modern European social democracy.”