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Estimates for Public Services 2013

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Estimates for Public Services 2013

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Estimates for Public Services 2013

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Deputy Mary Lou McDonald

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Mary Lou McDonald

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Snippet Contents:

The argument for reform within the public sector is unanswerable. I support that. While the shared services initiative is not the be-all and end-all, the rolling-out of this concept makes sense. I support it because it is efficient. The problem with this Estimate will recur as each of the Estimates goes through the relevant committee. The Minister has conceded that the Croke Park cuts are hard-wired into each Estimate. The Minister said he had no option because he could not produce an Estimate with figures in square brackets. Perhaps that is what he should have done. It is not acceptable for him to instruct the LRC to talk to the unions to see whether the basis for an agreement exists while at the same time bringing to the Oireachtas Estimates which have Croke Park II written all over them. What are unions and, more importantly, workers supposed to make of that? It seems to me that the LRC has been sent on a mission to talk to the unions not about how to find more savings in order to raise €300 million, but about how to revive a deal that has been comprehensively rejected by public sector and Civil Service workers.
It is a pity the Minister has gifted this mission to the LRC because I am sure he has heard, as I have, people from within the trade union movement who have suggestions about how €300 million might be found. Taxation measures have been suggested. Stimulus measures have been proposed. If we can decrease the welfare bill by getting people back to work, that will have all sorts of knock-on consequences for the domestic economy and for domestic demand. There is no question that €300 million could be gathered by means of some of the ideas which have been highlighted. I will give a few examples of possible savings in the public service. We have not yet yielded the savings that could be achieved through the use of generic drugs. I have raised with the Minister previously the issue of the small proportion of public sectors workers who are overpaid and overpensioned. There is no question that savings could be made there. That was not the central thrust of Croke Park II, however, and that is why workers rejected it. People on modest incomes who are just about struggling by cannot take another hit.
I remind the Minister that he was part of the process of agreeing a choreography that involved talks and a ballot. He was not forced into that situation - he opted into it. Now that workers have made their decision and the result is known, the Minister should respect the decisive outcome of the ballot. We would be dealing with a different atmosphere today if the Minister respected the verdict of the workers and was introducing an Estimate that reflects the fact that he cannot count on the €300 million envisaged by Croke Park II, which has been defeated.