Shane Ross

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The Government has Rolled Over to Public Sector Unions and Plundered the Exchequer

Posted on: August 21st, 2005

The Government is proceeding apace with the ruinous Benchmarking pay deal for public sector workers. On the 21st of August I proposed a motion, seconded by independents David Norris and Feargal Quinn, to halt the deal in its tracks:

In view of the critical state of the nation’s finances, Seanad Eireann calls on the Government to suspend the benchmarking deal with the public service immediately.

I was amazed that I even managed to get two signatures for this bill. There is a deafening silence in Leinster House about benchmarking because everyone there stands to benefit, and indeed already has without any increases in productivity. Everyone who looks at this objectively knows we can’t afford benchmarking. It’s going to cost at least 1.1 bn per year at a time when the budget deficit is rising.

The government has recently introduced cutbacks in the education sector, citing a need for “prudence in a tight financial situation.” Benchmarking flies in the face of this logic, and the Government has accepted it because of the power of the public sector unions. I have proposed this motion to expose the fact that benchmarking is a wicked plot by insiders in the state to pay themselves a lot of money. It is the powerful people in Government, civil service and trades unions who are going to benefit – a benefit that will cost the taxpayer €1.1bn. The lack of opposition in Leinster House to benchmarking is not unrelated to the fact that everyone there stands to benefit.

No one seems to have realised that there will be a direct cost – the next budget is bound to be a tough one, simply because the government has rolled over to the public service unions and let them plunder the exchequer. What is the likelihood of there being real increases in public service productivity in return for these huge bonuses? Slim – because the so-called Productivity Verification Groups are stuffed with public sector employees, the very people who stand to gain. Someone in Government must be prepared to stand firm and say that without real productivity gains no more money will be paid. There is after all supposed to be a quid pro quo in this deal.

When insiders are looking after themselves in such an outrageous manner, someone of independent stance must be prepared to stand up and say this has got to stop.