The leader of Ireland’s largest public sector union has said the Dublin government is facing “a potentially explosive situation” following the introduction of pay cuts for staff on the state payroll.
Peter McLoone, general secretary of Impact and chairman of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), said trust had effectively broken down between unions and the Dublin government and that there was no basis upon which they would be able to go back into talks in the short term.
Mr McLoone told Irish radio yesterday he could not rule out all-out strikes, as the reaction from members to the pay cuts was very strong.
The 26-County Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan announced pay cuts of between 5% and 15% for all public service workers, while today there were indications that this will be extended to workers in the semi-state bodies such as the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) and the national rail and bus transport compamnies.
Mr McLoone said yesterday: “The problem we have to recognise is [that] the ambitions for the reforms I have been talking about for six months now lie in tatters. We need to understand the reason for that is that the people who work to provide public services are angry, upset and very hurt at the way the Government walked away from these negotiations at the last minute.
“I think we are now dealing with a potentially explosive situation. We must recognise that the main reason for that is that over 250,000 people in the public service whose earnings a year ago were 60,000 euro gross or less will have taken a 13 per cent enforced pay cut in 10 months,” he said.
Mr McLoone said the conditions no longer existed in which he had a workforce that “will be up for engaging in transformation”.
Dublin government ministers had indicated last week that if public sector reform was not introduced, further cuts in pay could be on the agenda for next year. The state’s major public sector unions are currently seeking the support of private sector workers for expected future strike actions.
Meanwhile, workers at the semi-state bodies are bracing for industrial unrest following reports that the cuts could be extended to the state companies. However, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen played down the possiblity this afternoon ahead of a discussion on further cutbacks at a cabinet meeting tomorrow.
The General Secretary of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) Eamon Devoy has said pay cuts to semi-state workers will not be tolertated. Mr Devoy said the majority of these state companies are making huge profits, so imposing cuts should not be an option:
“To come along and punish those workers in any way by reducing their pay would be unheard of an intolerable.” Mr Devoy promised to oppose any such move, saying his union was ready for “battle”.
The controversial Social Welfare provisons of the budget, which legislates for cuts of 760 million euro next year, has now passed all stages in the Dublin parliament following a heated debate.
Dublin West Green Party TD Paul Gogarty made international headlines when he directed a familiar expletive towards Labour deputy Emmet Stagg.
Mr Gogarty, who represents Dublin Mid-West on left wing credentials, had been challenged by Labour TDs to vote against the Bill.
He rounded on Mr Stagg and said: “With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, f*ck you, Deputy Stagg, f*ck you.”
Mr Gogarty immediately apologised for his “unparliamentary language” and later agreed that the language was indeed unparliamentary and apologised, adding, without irony, that he was outraged that somebody should question his sincerity.
Sinn Fein Social Affairs spokesperson Aengus O Snodaigh TD has said the row had distracted from the real issue - Deputy Gogarty’s support and that of the Green Party and Fianna Fail TDs for “savage cuts” to social welfare that hit the most vulnerable in our society”.
“He voted along with his Green Party and Fianna Fail and so-called ‘Independent’ colleagues to slash payments for people living in poverty, very many of whom are in his own constituency.
“The F word is the least that he and his fellow Government backbenchers have to apologise for having ensured the passage of a Social Welfare Bill that is a recipe for impoverishment and emigration.
“Deputy Gogarty should hang his head in shame, not for his unparliamentary language but for his betrayal of the people who elected him.”