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Brendan Howlin: No guarantees on public sector pay cuts

The Minister for Public Expenditure has said “all bets are off” unless savings are delivered under the Croke Park deal.

Brendan Howlin with finance minister Michael Noonan
Brendan Howlin with finance minister Michael Noonan
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

MINISTER FOR PUBLIC Expenditure Brendan Howlin has insisted the government is committed to avoiding more public sector pay cuts – but said there are no guarantees.

The minister said current pay levels are “contingent on delivery of the Croke Park Agreement”, adding that if the requisite savings are made then no further pay reductions will be necessary.

If we can’t get the flexibilities we require, then all bets are off. But both sides have respected the agreement so far. It [the Agreement] is delivered and the Government will continue to honour it so long as it’s honoured by all parties.

In an interview with Impact trade union’s in-house magazine Work & Life, Minister Howlin stressed that the February deadline for voluntary retirement with full pension will be crucial in determining whether public sector staff numbers can be sufficiently reduced. “If people go before the end of February, they will retain the pre-cut level of pension and lump sum,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was waste in the public services – saying that revelations about job perks such as 45 days annual leave were “not acceptable any more” – but insisted that public sector workers themselves wanted to see changes. “There’s almost a cry for change from people at the coalface,” he said. “They know there’s huge waste. They are frustrated in what they want to do.”

Minister Howlin also appeared to row back slightly on his notorious statement that Ireland’s public services were “not fit for purpose”. He told interviewer Bernard Harbor: “I think I only used the phrase once, but it’s been repeated and rehashed a lot. And I did say ‘some elements’ of the public service.”

Read more: Government pledges: No more pay cuts in public sector>

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Michael Freeman

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