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Estimates for Public Services 2013 (Continued)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

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  12 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald] Perhaps he was indicating to us that he genuinely had an open ear and an open mind in respect of where €300 million might be found, but he has exhibited none of that. Instead of a pathway to finding an accommodation, what he is delivering to workers and their unions is a fait accompli. People may have voted against Croke Park II but we are writing it into the budgetary mathematics nonetheless. We will send the LRC to talk to them but, really, we have our minds made up. That is not a way to do business with workers or unions. It is also not a way to do business with the Minister's colleagues and peers, the Members of the Dáil, and it is not an appropriate way to go about his business.

  I and Sinn Féin will not be party to delivering to workers this kind of fait accompli and trying to strong-arm workers into a position where they really have no choice because the Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, is going to foist this agreement on them whether they like it or not. With all due respect to the Minister, it makes absolutely no sense for him to ask us, as parliamentarians, to clear this Revised Estimate when he can say in the next breath "Maybe I will come back with a change or maybe I will not". There has to be a radically different view in terms of raising the additional €300 million and I think it can be done. However, I certainly will not support the manner in which the Minister proposes to do it because it will hurt low and middle income workers at the front line and, by extension, it will damage our public services. If the Minister reflected on it and was honest about it, he would recognise this.

  The Minister criticised us for walking out of the committee yesterday. We were not prepared to listen to a long diatribe from the Minister, a man who is clearly not minded to listen to anything, who seems to believe he always has it right-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Deputy's time is up.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald -----and then to be cheer-led by his colleagues who come in and slavishly back whatever crackpot notion he comes up with. The Minister made reference to the private sector. It is absolutely laughable that he or any member of this Government would point to the private sector because they would not last a wet week in that private sector.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Deputy should conclude.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Thank you. That is the rationale for opposing these Revised Estimates. It is not complicated. All of the Minister's spiel about shared services and paying people is a simple ruse, a Trojan horse even, to sneak in Croke Park II even though the workers have rejected it.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The question before the House is whether or not we should vote through Revised Estimates for this year that include the Croke Park II formula. On the basis that Croke Park II has been overwhelmingly rejected, I honestly believe this will be seen as an insult by the 290,000 public sector workers. It would be very unhelpful to the ongoing and sensitive negotiations to find an acceptable agreement and it would be a symbol from this Government that says "We do not care for collective bargaining if we do not get the answer we want, and we will carry on regardless".

One substantive reason has been given by both the Minister and the Taoiseach, namely, if a vote is not taken in the next number of days, the funding for the shared services centre ends. I fully support the shared services centre and I would not like to see that happen. Therefore, let us vote through the funding for the shared services centre and that only. I believe public sector workers would appreciate that.

With that done, why would the Government vote through the rest of the spending at this time? The Minister and the Taoiseach have given reasons as to why this might happen. They have both said it is normal procedure and that it can be changed later, and they have both intimated that public servants would understand the situation the Government is in. I do not believe they would understand that, having gone through a democratic process and having overwhelmingly rejected the deal on offer, they would see this deal voted into law by the Government just seven days later.

The public servants to whom I have spoken feel that not only was Croke Park II unfair and unacceptable to them but that, throughout the process, they were condescended to, insulted and bullied. This vote will be seen by many public sector workers as a continuation of that tone and approach. The point is that this problem is very easily solved. There are three things we could do. The first is that the Minister could withdraw today's vote on the expenditure for his Department. The second is that he could bring through a vote tomorrow, which I would fully support, for the shared services centre only. The third is that this would give time for the ongoing and very sensitive negotiations on the target of €300 million, a target I accept. However, I do not accept that the way to do it is to target pay and pensions. I believe there is vast waste in the public sector that should be cut before going after pay and pensions, and I believe that is one of the reasons the deal was rejected.

On the basis that the issue we have before us today is an easily solved problem, and that this vote will be seen by public sector workers as a deeply disrespectful snub from this Government, if the Minister and the Government proceed with this vote, one can only conclude that this is actually part of an ongoing hostile negotiation. As such, Dáil Éireann should firmly and roundly reject it.


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