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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] It is very necessary for the Government to produce its Estimates without gaps or brackets around numbers because it is important that it be able to continue to do its work and carry out its duties. The Estimates before the Dáil do not comprise the entire range of Estimates; they have been apportioned across Departments. As the discussions take place on these Estimates, there may be little adjustments here and there.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Some €300 million.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Estimate before the House is the Estimate for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The 130 people who work in shared services need to be paid this week. That is why it is important that the Estimate for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform go through today in order that the people concerned can continue their work and be paid for it. In that sense, a very genuine process is being followed. We have to achieve the savings that have been set out.

The Deputy referred to the threat of compulsory redundancies. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said that if this were a private company, there would be redundancies in train. With regard to the public sector and the Labour Relations Commission's negotiations on Croke Park II, protection was an inherent part. However, if there is no agreement, there is no protection; that is the point. Obviously, the trade unions will now engage with the Labour Relations Commission to determine whether there is a basis for negotiations on the savings of €300 million required to be made this year.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is why workers really get fed up with the mixed messages that flow from the Government. What the Taoiseach has said is really a threat to workers. He is basically saying that if there is no agreement, there will be no protection. He did this about two months ago also. Again, it was not followed through. The Government is reaching out on the one hand, while saying that if one does not play ball, there will be no protection in terms of employment.

Nurses, health care workers and public servants felt the deal was fundamentally unclear. There was a divide and conquer approach at the time and it is continuing. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said yesterday that he would work with the trade unions that would work with him. That old tradition of number counting is what got the deal into trouble from day one. The Government was looking at the electoral college set-up and counting the numbers and it got it wrong. It tried to isolate certain workers, particularly in the health care sector. We know that gardaí were isolated much earlier. The Government needs to go back to the drawing board in terms of how the deal was constructed and the composition of the pay cuts for specific workers.

The Taoiseach has confirmed that there will be only little adjustments. Government sources said yesterday there could only be a tweaking of the deal. In reality, the laws that must be enacted to give effect to the pay deal are ready. While informed industrial relations correspondents are saying the Government has bought a little time for itself, it seems it has bought time to try to get the numbers right here by getting Labour Party backbenchers to vote for the necessary legislation to get the deal through. That is what is on the agenda for the next fortnight. Deep down, the Government knows there is no room for the kind of substantive renegotiation of the deal that those representing the workers are saying is required. The Government's position is that only a tweaking of the deal can occur. The real agenda is to get everybody on board to vote through the pay deal in the context of legislation that is ready to go and which the Minister has drawn up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny That is not a question. Let me remind the Deputy of the truth. The Government must deal with the truth and the facts. The trade unions rejected the proposals from the Labour Relations Commission which were negotiated in full and open consultation in a very comprehensive way. This is unlike the circumstances in which legislation was simply rammed through without consultation or engagement with the public sector in the first place.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary What about Croke Park I?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin That is after the Deputy's party made cuts.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny That was repeated on two separate occasions. It is also true that in the negotiations between the Labour Relations Commission and the trade unions on Croke Park II, employment was protected. It is absolutely true to say that if there is no agreement, there will be no such inherent protection. In the beginning all of the trade unions were invited to participate and engage. They can now all participate and engage again. It is fundamental to getting the public finances right that the saving of €300 million be achieved this year and, as has been pointed out, that up to €1 billion be saved by 2015.

The Deputy's assertion that the Estimates are being rammed through is also untrue. The Estimate is for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There was no debate last week on the Estimates.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Deputy's people walked out of a meeting yesterday and would not engage on it. The reason the Estimate must go through this morning is to ensure workers can be paid at the end of the week. They are engaged in public service and public duties.

A process is in train whereby the Labour Relations Commission can engage with the trade unions, all of which can come back in and give their views to the commission. The savings must be achieved. As I stated, the door of the Government is always open to the ideas and expressions of the trade unions. There is an important process in place, as the Government has recognised. It has asked the commission to engage with the trade unions to determine how best this might be achieved. It has to be achieved.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I wish the Taoiseach and his terrible twin in the Labour Party a happy birthday.

Since yesterday the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, sought to ram Estimates for his Department through the committee. The Taoiseach has stated correctly the Estimates are apportioned Department by Department. Hardwired into each of them are the Croke Park agreement cuts. The Taoiseach has asked the Labour Relations Commission to re-engage with the trade unions to find some accommodation. Despite this, he will bring the same Estimates in front of the Dáil this morning, snubbing his nose at the decision of workers in the civil and public service. He congratulates himself and contrasts his approach with that of the last Government which acted unilaterally on pay cuts. I suppose the distinction is really one of choreography because, whereas the current Government will go through the motions of engaging in consultation and pretending to have a listening ear, it has indicated that, like Fianna Fáil, it is ultimately prepared to act unilaterally. The Taoiseach is playing games with public sector workers. I am not talking about those at the top such as himself, the Tánaiste and their special advisers but about workers on the front line, including gardaí, nurses, teachers and emergency personnel.

The Taoiseach continues his sabre rattling this morning and draws a parallel with the private sector. I suggest that in the private sector the first one to get the chop would be the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, who would very smartly be followed by the rest of the members of the Government. To add insult to injury, as the Taoiseach throws shapes at public sector workers, he protects the pay of Richie Boucher. If ever somebody was correctly named, it is the bould Richie.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will the Deputy, please, refrain from dealing with personal issues?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald He is on a salary – sorry, a remuneration package – of €843,000. That is €70,000 per month or over €16,000 per week.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Which topic are we debating?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Richie takes home in a fortnight what an average nurse earns in an entire year. How does the Taoiseach look public and civil servants in the eye, despite telling us that many of them are struggling just to get by? How does he look them in the eye when his approach is so heavy-handed with them? He demands that nurses, gardaí and emergency personnel take cuts to their wages and accept a decrease in the standard of their working lives, while at the same time being so gentle and generous with Richie Boucher.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am not sure where the Deputy’s question was. Let me deal with her assertion on the Estimates.


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