Howlin says both sides must adhere to Croke Park deal


AS LONG AS the public service unions adhere to their side of the Croke Park agreement, the Government will stick to its side, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has insisted.

Brendan Howlin was responding to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who repeatedly asked the Minister to guarantee that the Government would not breach its commitments to increments for public servants under the Croke Park agreement.

Ms McDonald said she raised the question in the wake of comments by two Fine Gael Cabinet members who had, she said, called on the Government “to breach its commitments under the Croke Park agreement”.

She accused the Government of breaching its own salary cap for the new chief executive of the VHI, but Mr Howlin said: “I have appointed nobody and have authorised no payment in excess of the cap of €250,000 that I announced in respect of the semi-State sector”.

He said 18 months ago there were salaries “that were multiples of that cap”.

Ms McDonald said “higher grades in the public service had a single pay point and increments do not apply. By contrast, a clerical officer on a starting salary of just over €20,000 would take 17 years and 13 increments to reach the maximum salary of €33,000.”

A Government department secretary general, however, “enjoys a single pay point of €200,000”.

When she called on the Minister to clarify that increments to public sector workers were covered and protected by the Croke Park agreement and that the Government would not breach its commitments, Mr Howlin said he was a “strong supporter” of the agreement.

It had delivered significant savings, including payroll cuts of €1.5 billion. The agreement had introduced a mechanism for “significant reform which has not been fully recognised by some of the commentariat”.

He pointed out that in advance of the agreement, elements of increments were regarded as core pay and that had been adjudicated by the Labour Court.

Mr Howlin said that if the unions delivered and adhered to their side of the agreement, so, too, would the Government.