Opposition parties round on Government over deal collapse

Collapse of deal an ‘indictment’ of Government’s strategy

Opposition parties tonight rounded on the Government as it failed to secure an agreement on public sector pay – with Fianna Fáil branding the collapse of Croke Park 2 an "indictment" of Government strategy.

Fianna Fáil Public Expenditure spokesperson Seán Fleming said the rejection of the deal by the country's largest trade union Siptu was "a significant blow" to the Government's hopes of achieving additional savings.

He said the Government’s efforts to secure a deal from public sector workers were “a mixture of division, bribery and threats”.

"From day one, the Government's – and particularly Minister Brendan Howlin's – approach has been wrong. Since coming into Government, Fine Gael and Labour sought to undermine the contribution of the public service.


“Minister Howlin sought to divide and conquer public sector workers; developing proposals which saw those on the front line bear a disproportionate burden.

“When it became clear that this wasn’t working, Government sources then leaked details of an unspecified €300 million ‘honey pot’ that would be available to sweeten the deal for unspecified sectors of the public service.

“When this didn’t work, he then resorted to a straightforward threat that he would implement a 7 per cent pay cut across the board if workers did not support his proposals.”

Sinn Fein’s Public Expenditure spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald said the collapse of Croke Park 2 was a “body blow” to the Government’s austerity “agenda”.

“The Government needs to go back to the drawing board. Workers have signalled loud and clear that these pay cuts are not fair – and that those on lower and middle incomes simply cannot afford to take any more.

"Sinn Fein has always argued against cutting the pay of low and middle income workers. If the government is serious about reform of the public sector it should deal with runaway pay at the top and eliminate wasteful spending."

Exiled Labour Party TD Patrick Nulty called on his former colleagues on Government benches to "fully respect" the decision taken by public sector workers – adding that any attempt to legislate for pay cuts should be met with "revolt" from the Labour parliamentary party.

“Labour Party TDs – elected on a platform to protect wages and conditions – should find a decision to proceed with cuts unconscionable,” he said.

“Further cuts to public sector wages can only lead to further job losses in the private sector – further undermining domestic demand in the economy. The cuts are part of an agenda to lower pay, terms and conditions across the workforce.”

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett said the vote reflected "the failed policy of this Government" and called on the Labour Party to "resign" from the Coalition.

“This is an indication that the Labour Party’s base rejects the policies of austerity being dictated by the IMF. This is a significant day for workers in this country. The vote represents an earthquake within the Labour movement.”

The Socialist Party's Joe Higgins echoed those views and said a "concentrated movement of opposition" with a "particular focus" on Labour could bring the Government down.

“The government has threatened to legislate for pay cuts now. The unions must respond with a fighting strategy and declare that strong sustained industrial action will meet any moves by the Government in that direction.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter