Fianna Fáil opposes Varadkar’s public sector strike ban

Party does not foresee renegotiation of confidence and supply deal with next FG leader

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on public expenditure Dara Calleary. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on public expenditure Dara Calleary. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times.

 

Fianna Fáil will not support proposals banning public sector workers who provide essential services from striking.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said he believes key public and security services should be protected from industrial action and has proposed to do so if elected Fine Gael leader and taoiseach.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on public expenditure Dara Calleary said the proposal was “flimsy” and required clarification from the Minister on two occasions on Monday.

Mr Calleary said there was still no clarity on which emergency workers would be affected or which services Mr Varadkar classifies as essential.

“One thing I would say in the context of public sector pay talks getting under way the timing of the proposals are unhelpful,” he said. “I would ask both candidates give those talks the space for those negotiations to proceed without interruptions but in terms of a ban on strikes it is not something as a party we would support.”

He added: “The proposals are so flimsy to date that I don’t think it warrants further comment.”

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Mr Varadkar mentioned air traffic control as one of the essential public services as well as transport services that might be precluded from strike action following a Labour Court recommendation. He said it could also “include emergency services where it is a matter of life and death”.

Public service trade unions, which are holding talks on a new pay deal with the Governmnt, said they would oppose any such ban.

Election preparation

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil has said it does not foresee a renegotiation of the confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael on the election of a new leader.

However, the party is prepared for a general election and could have candidates ready within a matter of days.

At a meeting of the frontbench, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin urged TDs to stop leaking to members of the media.

Mr Martin was referring to weekend reports about a strategy meeting held by the party in a Dublin hotel to discuss election preparation. The party leader told the meeting the leaks were undermining Fianna Fáil’s preparations and to stop contacting the media.

Fianna Fáil figures have admitted their preparations for a general election have increased in light of the Fine Gael leadership contest.

Some TDs believe there could be a vote in November should the parties fail to reach agreement on a budget.

Fianna Fáil also stressed it does not foresee water charges being refunded this year. Mr Calleary said the monies was not available in the forthcoming Budget and would need to be budgeted for over 2018 and 2019.

“If Minister Varadkar has identified savings within his budget that he feels that it can be funded then let him show us where those sayings are and we’ll consider it then.”