5 stories you need to know today

Morning news briefing. The stories you need to read to be in the know on Monday!

1. Public sector pay rise ‘could be as high as 6.5%’

Higher pay rises for doctors, nurses and those staff who are difficult to retain in the public service are likely to be considered for inclusion in a new public sector pay deal. While some senior Government figures said a public sector pay rise could be as high as 6.5 per cent over the period of a new pay agreement, others expressed scepticism that a final package would offer a pay rise of that scale. The Government has committed to the establishment of a public sector pay commission in the coming months to help quell industrial unrest and prepare the ground for a successor to the Lansdowne Road agreement. The commission has also been agreed between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in their deal on a minority government. Government and union sources believe it will pave the way for full-blown negotiations, expected to begin in a year's time, on a successor to the Lansdowne Road deal. Quicker restoration of pay is just one of the union issues being faced by the Government as demands mount for new Minister Paschal Donohoe

2. Luas operator in bid to run bus services

Dublin light rail operator Transdev, which is locked in a protracted pay dispute with Luas drivers, is seeking to win the right to run bus services under new Government reforms. Under the Government's plans about 20 routes in the capital operated by Dublin Bus as well as some run elsewhere around the country by Bus Éireann will be put out to tender. While the State transport companies can compete to continue to operate the services, the process which is now getting under way will also be open to private firms. A spokeswoman for Transdev said it would be bidding to operate routes as part of the tendering process which will be carried out by the National Transport Authority. Staff in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann are strongly opposed to the reforms which they fear could lead to the privatisation of bus services traditionally operated by the State sector. Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Shane Ross said at the weekend he would not be intervening in the Luas dispute nor using the "State chequebook" to settle the dispute.

3. New strategy aims to ensure Ireland does not become the fattest country in Europe

Irish people face a new round of belt-tightening with Government plans to target a 5 per cent reduction in our average weight over the next decade. Disadvantaged areas will be encouraged to shed the most as the plan aims to reduce the gap in obesity levels between the richest and poorest sections of society by 10 per cent. The national obesity strategy, expected before Cabinet soon, aims to ensure Ireland does not become the fattest country in Europe, as predicted in international studies. Implementation of the "A Healthy Weight for Ireland" strategy was identified as a health priority in the programme for government. A sustained loss of 0.5 per cent a year in excess weight (averaged across all adults) is targeted in the first five years of the plan, according to a draft seen by The Irish Times.

4. Varadkar urged 20% cut to welfare rates

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar previously claimed Irish welfare rates were too high by European standards and should be cut by one-fifth. Mr Varadkar, who is now in charge of the welfare system in the new Fine Gael-Independent minority government, outlined the position at the start of the last government's term. The comments are contained in a letter the Dublin West TD sent to former minister for public expenditure and reform Brendan Howlin as part of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition's comprehensive review of expenditure in 2011. Mr Varadkar was minister for transport at the time.


5. State judged to be violating Travellers’ rights

Travellers' human rights are being violated by the Irish Government's failure to provide enough accommodation and to maintain many sites at an acceptable standard, a European committee has found. In a landmark judgment published this morning, the European Committee of Social Rights – part of the Council of Europe – has found the Government is violating Travellers's rights under the European Social Charter. A "collective complaint" – a form of class action – was taken by the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), with the support of the Irish Traveller Movement, in April 2013. It was deemed admissible in October 2013 and the Irish Government responded with submissions in February 2014. Additional observations and submissions from both sides were received by April last year.


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