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Public service reform plans are 'weak' and 'wrong' says opposition

The government has been criticised for proposing to cut 23,500 jobs in the public sector over the next four years.

Fianna Fáil's Seán Fleming reacts to yesterday's public sector announcements
Fianna Fáil's Seán Fleming reacts to yesterday's public sector announcements
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

OPPOSITION PARTIES HAVE reacted with a mix of disbelief and concern at the government’s proposals to reform the public sector which were announced yesterday.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin yesterday revealed plans to cut 23,500 public sector jobs by 2015, to merge or abolish 48 state agencies and to bring an end to any further decentralisation projects in an effort to cut cots across the public service.

Fianna Fáil said it was the “weakest document ever produced on this issue by a Government” and slammed the job cutting exercise as counter productive to solving the problem of unemployment in Ireland.

Reacting to the proposal , the party spokesperson on public expenditure and reform Seán Fleming said:

The biggest failure in this document is the complete lack of a plan to protect frontline services. No provision has been included to ensure adequate staff numbers, such as nurses, are retained in key areas which should be prioritised under this plan.

The document details 48 agencies that have already been rationalised and a further 46 are to be reviewed in 2012. In fact the Government has gone out of its way to confirm that it will be setting up new quangos and the only concession to reform will be the inclusion of “sunset clauses” for these new quangos.

On the issue of decentralisation the Government has merely rehashed the list of 32 projects where permanent accommodation is completed or is due to be completed shortly, they also list the 22 projects that are underway and these will be reviewed. The 40 projects where no work had commenced since 2003 are not being proceeded with.

Speaking for Sinn Féin, the party’s jobs and enterprise spokesperson Peadar Tóibín said his party was concerned that the government was starting at the wrong point in deciding how many jobs to cut back on.

He said the proposal targeted low paid workers and he raised specific concerns in relation to the merger of a number of industrial relations bodies.

Tóibín said:

This blunt instrument will target low paid workers, or frontline workers such as nurses, gardaí and teachers and not realise savings to the excessive pays of senior civil servants.

In addition we are concerned that the merger of the Labour Court, Labour Relations Commission, National Employment Rights Authority, Employment Appeals Tribunal and Equality Tribunal could diminish the rights of workers or impede the just settlement of cases.

We support public sector reform to lead to the delivery of efficient and effective services to all our people. However what we have are proposals without any cohesive or comprehensive policy framework, which fails to differentiate between, low paid works, essential front line staff and excessively paid senior managers

Read: Decentralisation scrapped and over 23,000 public sector jobs to go by 2015

As it happened: Government announcement on public sector and quangos

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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