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.’