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Howlin: Contingency plans in place for pay cuts ‘one way or another’

Brendan Howlin says the Government will accept pay deals with individual unions if an overall deal is impossible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INgnm8XIcBc

YouTube: Hugh O’Connell

Updated, 14:18

PUBLIC EXPENDITURE AND Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has affirmed that he is preparing draft legislation to protect the pay of public workers, while work continues on talks to reach an agreement on how to make some savings.

Howlin said this afternoon that he had asked the Labour Relations Commission chairman Kieran Mulvey to continue his current efforts, which have seen some progress made on reaching a successor to the Croke Park pay deal – including some sector-specific deals.

While the Government is still keen to agree a single all-encompassing deal, it said it was prepared to enter deals with individual trade unions if no single all-encompassing deal could be reached.

However, “as a contingency measure”, the Government was still moving ahead with drafting legislation which would give legal effect to a unilateral pay cut.

Before this morning’s cabinet meeting, Howlin had said that “one way or another”, pay cuts would have to be made in the public sector.

Howlin told reporters that cuts were necessary, and there would have to be legislation – irrespective of whether a deal is reached with unions or not – but that the government’s preference was for a negotiated settlement.

“The structure of the alternatives that the government is considering are known, they will include pay cuts for anybody over €65,000,” he said.

“Obviously we have to make contingency plans and I have had discussions over the last number of days, in fact since the end of the ballot, with the Attorney General’s office because one way or another we have to make these savings.”

“We want to do it in a way that we have agreement,” he added saying that savings needed to be made “in as balanced a way as possible”.

Howlin also ruled out setting any specific deadline for reaching an agreement with unions, adding: “There is no date in my head that is immutable.”

Additional reporting by Gavan Reilly

Read: Health unions in new public pay talks as Croke Park cuts are tweaked

More: EU will inspect Ireland’s finances for decades after bailout, under new rules

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Hugh O'Connell

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