Public service pay cuts not inevitable, says Gilmore


PUBLIC SERVICE pay cuts are not inevitable, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has said, pointing out that the “so-called” pension levy had already constituted a reduction in wages and salaries.

“I don’t accept that they’re inevitable,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme yesterday.

“First of all, because there already has been a pay cut for people who are working in public service organisations: it was the so-called pension levy. That was a pay cut.”

Asked if he accepted that public expenditure savings of €4 billion would have to be made, he replied: “I don’t accept the €4 billion figure. The question that has to be addressed [is] what happens if you take €4 billion out of the economy.

“There’s been a huge chunk of money taken out of the economy already this year. We see the consequences of that: walk down any street in Ireland.

“There’s nobody going into the shops, there’s no spend. Because there’s no spend, there’s no sales taxes coming in.” The question of whether €4 billion was the correct figure was “something that the Labour Party is looking at”. The Government still had not given a date for the budget.

Reiterating that he was saying no to public sector pay cuts, Mr Gilmore continued: “We’ve already said there are areas where economies could be achieved in the public service pay budget.

“One of those is at the top end, and we have proposed that there should be a cap on salaries at the top end and we have said what that cap should be. Secondly, we have argued, in terms of equity as much as anything else, that there should be a third taxation band and it should apply to earnings of over €100,000.

“We are already saying quite clearly, let me be clear about this, there has already been a cut in pay for people who work in the public services, that people who are on low and middle incomes are not in a position to bear further pay cuts.”

Meanwhile, Siptu president Jack O’Connor said strike action by public servants against pay cuts in the budget was now inevitable as it was “the same old story” whereby the sacrifices were made by working people.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions executive is to meet tomorrow on the situation. Ictu general secretary David Begg said it was not just a question of the banking system.

“It is the other questions like unemployment and like the general social consequences of cutbacks and of a slash and burn policy that might be introduced in the budget. It is something which needs a holistic and integrated response,” Mr Begg told RTÉ News.

Public sector union Impact has begun balloting its 55,000 members on industrial action. Its deputy general secretary, Shay Cody, said his union had its own proposals for dealing with the economic crisis, “but it’s not going to be on the basis of compulsory job losses or cuts in people’s pay”.