Response to the Minister

Walter Cullen, UNITE’s Regional Co-ordinating Officer, responds to comments made by Minister Brendan Howlin on RTE’s The Week in Politics:

‘The Minister’s commitment that the Government will not seek any more cuts up to 2016 if a successful deal is concluded will ring a bit hollow with many workers. We’ve been down this road a number of times. The pension levy introduced in early 2009 was intended to be the last word. Then it was the pay cuts in Budget 2010. The current Croke Park Agreement, which the Government stated they would honour, is intended to run up to 2014. Yet the Government is now seeking to renegotiate it for this year. Every time public sector workers suffer cuts, it’s supposed to be the last of the cuts. And yet Governments keep coming back for more. There is nothing to suggest that the Minister’s commitment will play out any different from past commitments.

‘The Minister claims there is a hole in public finances which needs to be repaired by seeking another €1 billion cuts in the public sector. However, the Government has yet to produce a detailed analysis of this hole. In other words, it has failed to date to produce a business case for their cuts. UNITE calls on the Government to produce such an analysis as a matter of urgency. Let’s see where the hole is, how big it is and whether it is really endangering the Government’s fiscal targets.

‘The Minister also claims that these negotiations are ‘fundamentally different’ than the negotiations that took place three years ago. According to the Minister, the current agreement was ‘an enabler for change’ while what is happening now is ‘a drilling down’ to see at the workforce level the impact any new arrangement. Let’s cut through verbiage. The Government is seeking cuts – in pay and employment. They are adding to the amount of austerity. No matter how it is dressed up, the bottom line is that if the Government succeeds in getting through their cuts, pay will fall, employment will and public services will deteriorate further.’

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2 Responses to Response to the Minister

  1. Pingback: Irish Left Review | Response to the Minister

  2. Declan says:

    The current policies to further reduce public spending will inevitably lead to reduced taxation returns and lower GDP growth and a vicious cycle of further cuts being necessary to achieve a sustainable budgetary situation.
    One elephant in the room appears to be that Ireland has to increase its taxation base at a time when a large portion of the population are struggling with very large personal debts and many companies (and/or promoters) weighed down with property related debts. Until the debt overhang is dealt with effectively people will not have the disposable income that is necessary to stimulate spending in the local economy and an increase in GNP.
    Below is an extract from an Irish Times article by Colm Kenna, 13-02-2013

    “The return on a Government stimulus package would be substantially greater than has been estimated to date because of the bank guarantee, according to new research from the Central Bank.
    The research estimates that a €2 billion stimulus package would save the State €663 million within two years because of the effect it would have on the numbers defaulting on their mortgages.
    However, the same study assumes austerity measures have a larger negative effect than believed up to now because of the increased demand they create for State support for the banks.
    A reduction in mortgage defaults would be of direct benefit to the public finances because of the way the government guarantee put the State on the hook for the capital requirements of the guaranteed banks, Central Bank economist Kieran McQuinn told a conference in Dublin today.”

    This appears to point to tangible and substantial economic benefits by avoiding cuts and retaining spending within the economy and that these benefits are not fully appreciated by the popular media or indeed Government policy makers.
    The current austerity policies are leading in corporate terms to a downsizing of our society and condemning generations to a lower standard of living with depleted public services. A change of policy to a more balanced approach is needed to achieve a fair and inclusive society with Growth strategies rather than cuts being the focus of our recovery.
    Within the Public Service staff numbers are reducing, putting severe pressure on the remaining staff to work harder and longer to make the current processes work – the Government response if the media reports are to be believed is to propose longer hours. International data would not support the premise that longer working hours leads to improved productivity and in fact the opposite is the case with the countries with lower working hours showing the highest productivity levels. This type of approach will inevitably lead to system failures, with staff under more stress and further reduce staff morale.
    I also find it incredulous that the Taoseach can state that if an agreement on the Croke Park Extension cannot be achieved – effectively breaking the agreement (not further cuts) that the Government will introduce legislation to enable further pay cuts. This comes after a number of years where the Government has stated it would be impossible to introduce legislation to reduce pay for Judges, Senior Bankers or former politicians in receipt of very large pensions.
    I would like to think the Government would fight for alternative policies that would encourage the necessary growth within the economy, tackle the debt overhang that stifles spending and economic activity and avoid cuts that in effect provide little actual beneficial return but appear to be more ideologically driven by some in Government.

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