Public Sector Pay and Conditions: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Sean Fleming on Tuesday, 23 April 2013:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes the:
— rejection by public sector employees of the Labour Relations Commission’s proposals on pay and conditions;
— failure of the Government to disclose all relevant information concerning the draft agreement;
— difficulties that the proposed changes to conditions of employment would have had for many families;
— inconsistency of treatment of different categories of public sector employees under the Government’s proposals; and
— disproportionate impact that the proposed measures would have had on the pay and earnings of frontline and shift workers;
recognises the:
— huge sacrifices made by public sector employees and pensioners in recent years;
— ongoing savings being delivered by the current Croke Park agreement;
— significant benefit to the economy and society that the absence of industrial action in the public sector has achieved;
— need to ensure that further reductions in the overall public sector pay and pensions bill occur in a fair and structured manner; and
— importance of a shared commitment to reform by all stakeholders in the delivery of public services; and
calls for:
— immediate engagement by the Government with public sector employees with a view to obtaining a balanced agreement that can secure widespread support amongst public sector employees;
— confirmation that the Government will not legislate for an across the board 7 per cent cut in public sector pay; and
— a commitment to full disclosure of all relevant facts prior to the conclusion of a new agreement on public sector pay.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“acknowledges:
— that public servants have made a substantial contribution towards the necessary reductions achieved in public expenditure since 2008, including through the unilateral imposition by the then Government of the pension levy and pay reductions applied under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009; and
— the ongoing contribution made to cost savings in the public service pay bill and to improving productivity by public servants under the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010 - 2014, and the related agreements made under its auspices;
welcomes the contribution made by public servants to economic recovery including through the absence of industrial action;
commends:
— the Government on its early and open engagement with public servants and their union representatives on the difficult but necessary actions required to restore the public finances; and
— representatives of public service employers, unions and the Labour Relations Commission on the development of a balanced set of proposals that would deliver €1 billion in savings on the public service pay bill by 2015;
notes:
— that the Labour Relations Commission’s proposals protected the basic salary rates of low and middle income earners in the public service while applying progressive reductions to the remuneration of higher paid public servants, and provided for a negotiated and equitable approach to securing the necessary savings in the public service pay bill; and
— the proud record of the public service in introducing and implementing work-life balance arrangements and that public service employers continue to be committed to equality of opportunity in its employment practices;
agrees that, in view of public servants’ non-acceptance of the measures proposed by the Labour Relations Commission, it will now be necessary for the Government to decide on and secure alternative measures that will deliver the additional pay and pensions savings of €300 million for 2013 and €1 billion by 2015 to meet public expenditure targets; and
further welcomes the Government’s request to the Labour Relations Commission to explore and report back to Government on whether the basis for a negotiated agreement exists between the parties.”

I call Deputy Ross. With whom is the Deputy sharing time?

I am sharing time with Deputies Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Joan Collins and Stephen Donnelly.

There is only ten minutes available.

That is two minutes each.

I would like to put this particular agreement in the context of what I witnessed today, which was a meeting of the Bank of Ireland AGM where a great deal of public money is going into people's salaries. Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance, on behalf of the Government, voted not just to keep salaries very high but to increase at least one salary. The new governor of the Bank of Ireland was not given €394,000 per annum as was given to his predecessor, which is about €8,000 per week, but a package of €492,000 per annum, which is almost a 25% increase on the governor's pay last year. One could not help feeling sympathy and that there was justice in any resistance from a public servant today when they see themselves being asked, on comparatively very low pay, to make a very substantial sacrifice when the same Government is prepared to stand over excessive and obscene pay and to allow it increase in other areas.

I have an uneasy feeling about these centralised agreements, and I have an uneasy feeling about Croke Park II because only 45% of SIPTU, the biggest union, voted. That means only one in five of those people followed their union's and their leader's call.

The reality is that the dynamic in the overall political situation has changed utterly since the rejection of Croke Park II because what we had was the Minister of State's Government threatening public sector workers to cut off their own heads or it would take the pay from them. They stood their ground and called the Government's bluff and in much the same way as it is trying to intimidate home owners by saying, "Give us all the details of your property or we will come and take the property tax from you", those people will stand their ground also.

The reason people rejected Croke Park II in such large numbers is that contrary to propaganda the overwhelming majority of public sector workers are relatively low paid. Already, they have experienced cuts in their pay of over 20% in recent years and their financial commitments were based on previous salaries. They simply cannot give any more. The idea being put forward that the unions can somehow go into talks and negotiate an alternative solution is lunacy and the sooner the Government and, more importantly, the trade union leaders realise that, the better because there is no more left to give. The Government can dress it up and say it is only €300,000 or €1 billion and that it will get it a different way. There is no other way to get it.

The real lesson to be learned from this vote is that the opposition has been clearly demonstrated. The mask is down. The Government is not as powerful as it was shown to be but that opposition should link up with the growing opposition throughout the country to the home tax and the other movement against austerity. That will teach the Minister's Government a lesson because in this centenary year of 1913, trade unionists and public sector workers have learned that the great no longer look so great.

Last week when I addressed the Minister, Deputy Howlin, in the House I pointed out that women were being disproportionately affected by Croke Park II and that it was fitting that Croke Park II was being buried the same week as Margaret Thatcher was being buried. The Minister took exception to that. He appears to believe there are misconceptions in the public domain in terms of how damaging the Croke Park II proposals are for public sector workers. I want to outline how bad this so-called agreement would have been for workers, especially women, which illustrates the reason the proposals were so comprehensively rejected.

The 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance commissioned an assessment of the pay cuts proposed in Croke Park II, which provided numerous examples of the negative effect on front-line workers of increased working hours without additional pay, reduced overtime pay and allowances, and the freezing of increments.

A psychiatric nurse and a staff nurse, both on gross salaries of less than €50,000, would have seen reductions in their income of over 11%. A paramedic on a salary of €36,700 would have faced a reduction of nearly 10%. A care assistant on a gross salary of just over €40,000 would have seen a 9% reduction in income. That report contrasts those examples with the way a Senator on a gross salary of €65,600 would have been affected by Croke Park II. The Senator stood to lose 0.9% of income.

According to the equality audit commissioned by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the proposed loss of access to flexible working arrangements as staff progress into senior management positions would have disproportionately and negatively impacted on women. Women are already significantly under-represented at senior management levels in the public sector above the higher executive officer grade. The audit found that this proposal will limit opportunities for women and men with caring responsibilities to seek and secure promotion and that it will copper-fasten vertical gender segregation and gender inequality in the public sector.

Deputy Ross put his contribution in the context of what happened today in the Bank of Ireland. That was an important point to make when one considers the vast wealth and wages of a certain section of society and the relentless way the Government is going after ordinary workers who already gave a great deal to the economy.

When does no mean no to this Government? When will it understand that when people say "No", that is what they mean? This was a decisive rejection of the Government's attempt to take €1 billion out of the pockets of public sector workers. It was a decisive two to one rejection. Sixteen unions decisively voted "No" yet the Government is trying to say this was some sort of a mistake on the part of the workers and that it might be able to get them to vote again. It should accept the result and stop pretending it was due to a low turnout or that people were confused and therefore it should make them vote again. The workers were not confused. They were clear in what they were doing. Two weeks ago the Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, said in this Chamber that he would take 7% out of their pay packets but workers in the public sector said, "We will not be turkeys voting for Christmas. If you want to take this money, come and get it. We will not hand it over to you easily". That was an insult to the intelligence of public sector workers who voted "No". They have already taken a 14% to 20% cut in pay because they know it is working people and the poor who have borne the brunt of the crisis. They know that the very wealthy and the elite have walked away scot free. The rich list report indicated that their wealth has increased by €3.6 billion up to €66 billion in the past year on the back of austerity, and the Government is still going after public sector workers. They know austerity is not working, and they know that taking money from low to moderate income families will cut demand and economic activity, which will affect jobs and result in losses. How many more reasons does the Government need? People are peeved. They have the universal social charge, the pension levy, the household tax, the property tax, water taxes, services are being affected etc. Enough is enough.

Croke Park II was rejected because it is a failed construct. I have no issue with the target to reduce public expenditure by €300 million but I object to Croke Park II, which aims to take it wholly and exclusively from pay and other remuneration. Any proposal to reduce expenditure must comply with three principles, the first of which is that public sector workers must be allowed find the targets within waste and other non-pay areas, and we are all aware that there are many such areas.

Second, any final reduction which may have to come from pay to meet the target, after waste is dealt with, must be applied fairly. However, the formula applied was not fair. The figures for the GRA, for example, show that a garda on €35,000 who works nights and weekends, would have seen a cut in the Croke Park II deal of €2,500 euro, but a civil servant who sits here and works from 9 a.m till 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday, on €65,000, would not have seen a single cent of reduction to his pay. That is patently unfair. Third, any reduction that must come and which is applied fairly after waste is dealt with, must be done in a way that takes issues such as unsustainable debts for households into account. It must be part of a policy approach.

I commend the motion put forward by Fianna Fáil and I fully understand why public sector workers voted against Croke Park II.

I now call on Deputy Regina Doherty, who is sharing time with Deputies Mitchell, Mulherin, Humphreys, Maloney and Harrington.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this motion. The motion is about honest, constructive and productive engagement with the public sector. Engagement is the key issue. Even in a crisis, engagement must continue. Negotiations do bring results.

We do not have the luxury of sticking our heads in the sand, as the previous Government did. Its lack of engagement and its sleeping at the wheel fed the fire that engulfed the economy. It was its sleeping at the wheel that resulted in an historic budget deficit of almost 30%. Agreements were made that ran way ahead of inflation. The Government then was spending three times more than it could collect. Today, even though we are in a deep recession, the moves the current Government has made have reduced the deficit to 7.6%. I remind those on the Opposition benches that management, analysis and organisational review are part of our mandate, both legislative and administrative. It is when one holds office that one can effect change, not in retirement and certainly not in memoirs.

I welcome the Government's initiative of introducing a second round of talks to be led by Kieran Mulvey. Creating the conditions to re-engage the parties will not be easy, particularly in light of the potential agenda to be addressed, which has already been alluded to publicly by both politicians and economic commentators. However, such an agreement is essential to the orderly conduct the business of the State in its return to economic sovereignty and in the rebuilding of the State. We are now in the process of rebuilding a new, fit economy, where our taxes actually support the economy.

Nobody said this would be easy and it is not. Any discussion about pay with employees is complex. When the agenda concerns an employer in a difficult financial position and their staff and immediate reductions in payroll costs, the level of complexity increases exponentially. Add the fact that we are talking about the pay of more than 290,000 people at all pay levels and in all roles in the public service and we can understand why the negotiations are enormously complex. Nobody underestimates how difficult reaching an agreement will be, but no one in the talks should underestimate the Government's determination to meet our fiscal targets or its desire to see Ireland's public service meet the challenges of a new era in a flexible and responsive fashion. We would prefer to achieve this through a negotiated agreement, if one can be reached. I believe public servants would also prefer a negotiated solution, rather than the uncertainty that a breakdown in industrial peace in the public service would bring. Their pragmatic approach to the delivery of comprehensive industrial peace across the public service since 2010 has made a significant contribution to the improvement of this country's fortunes.

We are on the cusp of an economic recovery and close to the time when we can wave goodbye to the troika. Now is the time for cool heads and creative thinking. It is vital that the country and the Government stick to our plan, which is working. We need to instil a sense of confidence in the Irish economy again. We all want to see a situation where we can invest in our infrastructure for the public good, building schools, primary care centres and public buildings where contractors and people can have the opportunity to work and earn a living, an investment in all our futures. This will come, but we need to continue to work hard on getting our economy back to full health.

We can never allow never allow the stack of cards of public debt and spend, to build up again. This is a Government of the people and an economy of the people. History will write that the steps being taken today by the Government established a new era in the Irish economy.

After five years of budgetary adjustments, it is inevitable we all feel we have reached the end of our tether, that we have had enough and that we cannot take any more. However, it would be tragic, when it seems we may be over the worst and on the cusp of recovery, to jeopardise it all and devalue the sacrifices that have been made by every section of society over the past five years, with the small but significant exception of a handful of politicians, and of bankers, who got off scot free. I accept that is galling for everybody. However, no matter how severely we would penalise these people, it would not make a real difference to the budgetary arithmetic, although I suspect it would make us feel a lot better. Most sections of society feel they are carrying a greater burden than others. It is only a small step then for them to feel that this tax increase or that tax cut should be borne by somebody else. Everybody feels hard done by, and the truth is they are. Everybody has had expectations shattered through no fault of their own.

The people who are most hard done by are not the public sector. They are those who have lost their jobs, their pensions and their savings. They are those older people who have lost jobs and will never work again and those young people who have had to leave the country in order to find jobs. Public sector workers have certainly taken a hit, but it is not the biggest hit, not by a long shot. Their jobs are secure, their pensions are secure and these are privileges funded by the rest of the working population. Of course, they also have the privilege to go on strike and take industrial action, something not available to the rest of the population or to those who have lost their jobs. Those in the private sector know that such action would threaten the viability of the businesses that employ them.

Realism is necessary now. The saving of €300 million is not a matter of choice. The Croke Park II negotiations and the ballot were never about the right to reject a cut of €300 million in payroll savings. They were merely about making a decision on how those cuts would be made, not whether they should be made. They must be made. Choice on a matter such as this cannot be left to chance. The truth is the decision was made in this Chamber and voted on validly by the majority of the Dáil in budget 2013. Some people have now suggested we could have an alternative budget and could spend the moneys saved on the promissory deal. This is a complete denial of the fact that the savings on the promissory notes was a saving on what we had to borrow, not money that is hoarded in the Department. Therefore the suggestion of an alternative budget is unrealistic. Surely nobody is suggesting we should borrow more in order to sustain salaries of 15% or 16% of the working population and jeopardise the salaries of the other 84%.

Another suggestion was that we should tax those earning over €100,000. On the face of it, this suggestion is appealing, but in reality we are at a point where if we increase tax any further, this will be counterproductive and will jeopardise the jobs of the majority of people working in the private sector. Therefore this is not an option. However, that said, I understand and feel that the cutbacks have not been easy for anyone. They have been painful and unpalatable, but no matter how we dress it up, the reality is that we must face up to our problems now and try to contain the borrowing or continue to borrow wherever we can and at whatever price we can, accumulate further debt and then pass on the problems to our children. To be honest, I do not want to be part of any Government that passes on a legacy like that to our children. Nobody wants to sacrifice and undermine the potential prospects, pensions, pay and prosperity of our children.

I commend the union leaders who recommended the deal to their members. I know this was not an easy choice and I know it was difficult for those who voted for it to do so, because nobody wants to vote for a cut in pay. Whatever happens, these people should not be disadvantaged in any new arrangement. I support the Government in making every opportunity available to the unions to come forward and renegotiate, however they can within the envelope of the €300 million. It behoves all of us, on both sides of the House, not to raise expectations unrealistically or to suggest there are expectations outside the €300 million envelope.

Deputy Mitchell has said a lot. I definitely agree with it. I do not really want to repeat it all. There is no magic wand in this regard. Once more, we are having to address and sort out a problem with the aim of achieving a better end for everybody. We are working towards an economic recovery that sees us improve the employment situation and offer people a better future. There is no way of getting around it - we have to fund savings in the public sector pay bill. At the moment, we are looking for €300 million. We know that the cuts which have been made over the years to address our fiscal situation have been difficult. We also know that they have been in every area of the public sector bar wages and pensions. It is inevitable that wages and pensions would be addressed because they form such a big section of public sector payments. Of course this leaves the Government in a difficult situation. It leaves us with the prospect of industrial unrest and all the sorts of things that will inhibit and obstruct the recovery we so vitally need.

I welcome the notion that all is not lost. The Government cannot unilaterally say how the cuts ought to be achieved. The public sector workers who will be affected have an opportunity to do so. I should add that the workers in question are very valued. From my dealings with them over the years, I can say that some of our best and most talented people are working in the public sector. That is not the issue, however. The issue is the need to balance the books. The challenge is to achieve the savings that are required in a negotiated way. It is a bit like running a court case - it is better for one to negotiate a settlement that is within one's power than to go into a judge and hand it all over. That is always and ever the case. It is the situation in this case. People can dig their heels in and say "no way", but it will still have to be done one way or another.

The reality check is that the real problem is not for public sector workers. The real problem is in the private sector, where countless people have lost their jobs. They have no union to shout for them. Many people who have jobs are working just three days a week so that they and their colleagues do not lose their jobs but instead enjoy a full complement of work. Many of those who own small businesses such as pubs, bars and restaurants throughout this country are sole traders. They have been adversely affected by the abolition of the employer's rebate for redundancies. They cannot downsize or restructure their businesses or make people redundant. They are forced to continue on because they cannot afford to pay 100% redundancy. When we had the boom, 60% of the cost of redundancy was covered by the State.

I know of an employer in my constituency who had to make staff redundant at a cost of €40,000 and now cannot afford €10,000 to pay for the tax clearance certificate needed to run the business. The employer has not succeeded in getting finance from the bank. I know of sole traders who are reaching retirement age but cannot retire and wind up their businesses because they would have to pay redundancy and they cannot afford to do so. Their employees would be able to claim social welfare payments if they were made redundant, but the employers themselves would not necessarily or readily be able to do so. A massive inequity is being imposed on people in the private sector because they are not in unison in terms of having a union and they do not have the same volumes. I am talking about employers, sole traders and small businesses, rather than big incorporated businesses that can hide behind the corporate veil. The ordinary shops and businesses on the main streets of our towns, villages and cities which are in this predicament are between a rock and a hard place.

I have seen many outrageous motions over my years in politics. The motion tabled by Fianna Fáil tonight is possibly the most blatant example of public opportunism I have seen. It is quite something that the soldiers of destiny, just as they did in the 1970s, marched Ireland into financial crisis in 2008 with their reckless economic policies and thereby destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people on this island. Let me put on the record again that five months ago, Fianna Fáil produced a pre-budget proposal which called for cuts of €350 million in the public sector pay and pension bill between July and the end of the year. Let us put on the public record that Fianna Fáil twice cut the pay of public servants without consultation. Let us put on the record that these soldiers marched us into a bailout programme and ensured Ireland would not be in charge of its own destiny for years to come. Let us put on the record that they included a property tax in the bailout programme and ran on that basis in the general election before promptly deciding it no longer supported such a tax. We remember that when they arranged for the sale of State assets in the bailout, they planned it so that Colm McCarthy's report would not be considered until they had been thrown out of office. We remember that they included in the bailout agreement the need to find €1 billion in savings from the public sector pay and pensions bill that were not specified in the original Croke Park deal.

Let us remember how they ensured before they left office that all their Ministers had enormous pensions and lump sum payments. Let us remember how they signed off on the super salary of the chief executive of Bank of Ireland, as we saw at today's meeting in the Burlington Hotel. Let us remember how they said that no item in the bailout could be changed. Let us remember how Deputy Micheál Martin constantly repeated the mantra that nothing could be changed. This Government renegotiated the interest rates. It introduced the jobs stimulus in 2011 and the stimulus package in 2012. It scrapped the promissory notes in 2013. Let us remember how Fianna Fáil gave the banks - Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide - a blank cheque worth over €30 billion, for which we are still paying. Let us also remember that the current leader of Fianna Fáil was a member of the Cabinet that made these decisions. Those involved in Fianna Fáil have always been consistent in one regard - whichever way the wind is blowing, they will chase it. No position is too entrenched to change. All that matters is the pursuit of votes, of power and of attention. The Government has to clean up the mess that Fianna Fáil left behind. We have to deal with the disastrous deal they left us with. We have to reform our institutions and repair the damage that has been done.

I am proud to be a member of the Labour Party in government, which is fighting for fairness and trying to ensure the hundreds of thousands of people who were left unemployed by Fianna Fáil are given a chance to work or retrain. We are fighting to ensure union members are consulted about their pay and conditions, rather than being subjected to unilateral pay cuts and diktats as they were by the previous Administration. We are fighting to protect those on the minimum wage and in low-paid employment. As I do not want to take up much more time, I will conclude by saying that Fianna Fáil implemented many fair and unfair things. The one thing that has always stuck in my throat is how Fianna Fáil attacked the minimum wage. That is what they left behind them. I was prepared to give them a fair chance and accept they might have changed, but I have to say this motion shows they have not changed their stripes. The only thing they are interested in is Fianna Fáil. Rather than focusing on Ireland, they are interested in their own political careers and where they are going. This Government is determined to get this country back on its feet and its people back into work. I am sorry to say all Fianna Fáil is doing is chasing the fantasy economics of Sinn Féin.

I will be as brief as I can. To the relief of my colleagues in Fianna Fáil, I will confine my remarks to the position of some of the other people on the left of the House on this issue.

Given the subject matter of this motion, I have to declare an interest. I joined a trade union when I was a teenager and was a member of Jim Larkin's Workers Union of Ireland and, subsequently, with the merger, a member of SIPTU. I am very proud to be able to say that. Obviously, I was not a member of a public service union, rather a member of a general workers union but I still retain my solidarity for all trade unions.

I say this because, for a newcomer, I find the debates here often take strange directions. In the debate before the ballot on Croke Park II, as a union man I thought we had some strange contributions from the Opposition side of the House and we have had some strange comments in the days since the ballot was announced. It galls me to an extent that I have listened to people here who I know were never in a trade union in their life, never stood on a picket line, never attended a union meeting and perhaps may never have worked for a day in their life - I am sure I will be corrected. It galls some of us that some of these people came in here prior to and following the vote, giving lectures to the Labour Party and, in some instances, lecturing trade union leaders who did the best they possibly could for the people they represent in a very difficult situation, given the country is bankrupt.

No negotiations ever end up in a win-win situation. As somebody who has been around unions for a sizeable part of my life, I know it is in the nature of things that people do not get everything they want. However, whatever about the merits of this agreement that has been rejected, I want to compliment people like Jack O'Connor who, in the first place, protected the people who are on the lowest wages. Whether one is a trade unionist, a Labour Party person, a believer in socialism or whatever the case might be, it is fundamental to look after those who are the weakest. People like Jack O'Connor should be complimented for this, although I will argue the other part of it with them. However, to take stick from people who, as I said, never stood on a picket line in their life, is a bit much.

Of course, I do not mean all of those in the House as I know there are those here who are staunch union people, and I respect them. However, why is this done? The previous speaker, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, alluded to it. On the part of some, it is not done because of solidarity with the trade union movement. It is done for naked political opportunism, that is all, so that this deal with not take place, things will get worse for the Government, perhaps we will have more evictions and perhaps we will have higher unemployment. It is naked political opportunism, not solidarity with public service workers.

In conclusion, I notice some of those who have been lecturing us and lecturing those in the trade union movement are very selective in terms of public service issues. One would expect people who purport to be so radical, when they are criticising the cuts in the public service, would include those at the very top of the public service - those like judges and retired judges, retired Ministers and other politicians who are on very lucrative pensions. However, I notice some of these people did not allude to that, and I know why. It is because, despite the fact that, when it suits them and depending on the speech, they refer to themselves as public servants, some of them are on a salary and allowances here. What they have not told the public service is that a handful of them are getting €40,000 tax free. That is why they do not allude to it. It is naked hypocrisy to lecture the Labour Party or trade union leaders when they themselves will not tell the full story.

I have to wonder what is the purpose of this motion given it is proposed by the last people in this House qualified to say anything credible about public servants and sustainable pay, conditions and work practices - those in Fianna Fáil. The hypocrisy, as I see it, is that the previous Government in dealing with any proposal surrounding public service pay and conditions simply capitulated and threw taxpayers' money at whatever the issue of the day presented. The complex nature of delivering public service reform while at the same time negotiating fair pay rates for all scales and sectors of the public sector was a bridge too far and too challenging for a Government led by the only self-proclaimed real socialist in town, for too long ably assisted by some of his back-slapping yes-men, some of whom had the temerity to put their names to this motion.

The measures that his Government put forward could only be described as short-sighted, basic and, ultimately, far too expensive for a country whose economy would shortly run aground. The benchmarking process and ultimate agreement is a classic example of the absentee leadership that typified Government policy from 1997 until 2011. This, and the introduction of a myriad of different allowances and payments for different posts and sectors, left the public pay regime unintelligible to the most forensic examination to a point where even the workers cannot tell what is core pay and what is an allowance. Schemes like Better Local Government, the arrival of the HSE and the debacle that became the decentralisation ego trip have all contributed to a more expensive, top heavy and less efficient public service that had to be addressed. I should add that flat percentage payment increases during this free-for-all created greater inequality among our public servants and left a much greater gap between those at the top and those at the bottom of the scale of public service workers. Of course, one would have needed vision, understanding and courage to have done it differently.

The sacrifices the men and women of the public service have made in recent years have been particularly difficult but this has led to a more efficient public service which is becoming fit for purpose. I also note that much of this pain was taken on without any industrial action whatsoever. This is commendable, unlike the motive behind this motion. The Government recognised this in adopting the Labour Relations Commission's recommendations that the highest paid public servants, those earning more than €65,000, would be hit first and hardest. Little wonder their union came out as strongly against as it did.

One of the main issues that surfaced during the negotiations directly affected those earning more than €35,000 but less than €65,000. The basic pay was to remain untouched but some allowances would have been affected. I previously mentioned the monkey's fist of the remuneration regime agreed by the previous Administration, and unravelling this is naturally complex and confusing. Those earning less than €35,000 would not have their pay affected high up or low down. I believe it is fair that they would be asked to participate in reforming the services where modest changes to work practices would be on the table.

I should state the cost of public sector salaries is now nearly €19 billion of Government expenditure. I would combine this with the cost of the total expenditure on social welfare at nearly €20 billion of gross Government expenditure. Some 90% of private sector workers in this country are looking at these figures with concern. They are struggling from day to day just to retain their jobs in challenging sectors such as, for example, retail and construction. In quoting this, we must also remember the 250,000 people who lost their jobs as a result of Fianna Fáil's direct and disastrous Government policies. It is difficult not to reflect that all of our collective focus should be on getting these people back to work.

I have spoken to people who voted against the agreement. They accept that cuts were necessary and they even accept that they themselves would have to contribute again. However, one person pointed out to me that, like turkeys that know Christmas is coming, why would they vote for it?

I note the motion specifically calls for engagement, no legislation and full disclosure. Talk about a conversion from a party that previously acted unilaterally to cut pay levels. It is a pity when the economy was roaring that some of the same signatories did not recognise that modest reform and more nuanced corrections could have achieved so much. The inevitable departure of the Celtic tiger left them completely baffled and totally at a loss as it arrived despite their policies and they did not have a clue where it came from in the first place.

All the evidence leads to one conclusion, namely, that Fianna Fáil ran this country with only one objective in mind - that of buying elections with taxpayers' money. Its former leader even claimed so in the Dáil. No one on this or any side of the House who was elected in the last election wants to impose pay cuts on anyone, whether in the public or private sector, but the precipice the taxpayers were facing when Fianna Fáil left office left us with no choice when the troika came in to explain and tell us how a country should be governed.

Those opposite need to reassess their options. The old method of opposing the Government for the sake of opposition is not going to work. They need to come forward with responsible alternatives that will get Ireland back to work again. This motion does not do that. I will be supporting the Government's amendment to this motion.

I compliment Deputy Sean Fleming on putting down this very timely motion. We should acknowledge and recognise the significant sacrifices that have been made by public sector employees in recent years because sacrifices have been made and ongoing savings have been delivered by the current Croke Park agreement, which should not be forgotten. Sometimes we take it for granted that we have industrial peace in the public sector but it is something of which we should be very proud. There is potential for reform by all stakeholders in the delivery of public services.

In case people think only trade union members could address this issue and debate, I wish to put on record that I was a member of a trade union during my teaching life for many years and I can contribute on teaching and educational matters in this House. I will say a few words on the teaching issue because teachers were particularly affected by some of the proposals I have heard discussed. I saw a press statement from the three teaching unions - the ASTI, the INTO and the TUI - which was headed "Teachers' unions to ballot for industrial action following rejection of LRC proposals". This was on 19 April. The executives of the three unions have decided to conduct a ballot of members for industrial action up to and including strike action. Certainly, industrial action by the three teaching unions will be triggered in the event of the Government proceeding unilaterally to impose salary cuts or to worsen working conditions. We addressed that in our motion. According to Pat King, the general secretary of the ASTI, "teachers have already taken a 14 per cent reduction in pay and have delivered additional work and substantial savings under the Croke Park Agreement". He went on to say that "young teachers, many of whom find themselves in precarious employment situations, have had inferior terms and conditions imposed on them in a most inequitable manner." I have often made the point that young teachers face many difficulties in getting employment. I certainly could not accept the proposals relating to smaller salaries for them and for gardaí and nurses. The general secretary of the INTO, of which I was a member, said:

Following the very strong rejection by teachers of the LRC proposals the ball is now in the government's court. Any move to unilaterally cut teachers' salaries or worsen working conditions will be strongly resisted up to and including strike action.

The general secretary of the TUI, John McGabhann, said:

Teachers and lecturers objectively considered the LRC proposals and found them to be unbalanced and unfair. They hit those in part-time, lowly paid work hardest, are regressive and are now, deservedly, dead in the water. We have an existing agreement and will continue to honour it. We expect the Government to do the same. If they choose not to we will take whatever industrial action is necessary.

I welcome the fact that LRC has been invited to become involved again and get the front line back at these talks. People outside the talks need to get back into them. We all agree that the Minister must make the savings of €300 million and must get the arithmetic right but as well as looking at all these situations, we must also talk about restoring the country to economic well-being. The Government can take a step back, as has been suggested, but not for too long. We must get the talks going again. I welcome the involvement of Kieran Mulvey of the LRC who will contact the parties to see if there is a basis for further engagement that might lead to an agreement.

Time is of the essence and from listening to the Minister, he knows that time for discussions is running out. It is very important, as was stated in our motion, that the Government does not legislate for an across-the-board 7% cut in public sector pay. There is dismay in the public sector, with 66% of public sector workers voting to reject the Croke Park II deal. The unions that opposed the Croke Park II agreement produced an equality audit of the proposal that was very clear that there were issues relating to family and what they saw as an attack on women. The front-line and shift workers were the people who were most definitely hit. I hope that, as the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance said, the Government realises the detailed analysis of the loss that would be suffered by different categories of workers, particularly staff nurses and paramedics. It is a massive additional hit to workers. Engagement by the Government with public sector employees is very important and could and should lead to a balanced agreement that can secure support among public sector employees.

I thank Deputy Sean Fleming for putting forward the motion to allow us to discuss this issue this evening. I suspect that I have more sympathy for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister of State with responsibility for public service reform than most people on this side of the House having been in the very early stages of that Department and the Croke Park agreement. One of the things about the Minister that has frustrated me in the past few days is the fact that he keeps emphasising that we have a cheek to raise concerns about Croke Park II because we implemented unilateral cuts. Yes we did and they were very difficult, which is one of the reasons there are 19 of us here. Many fine colleagues paid a very serious price because of the opposition to those cuts and because they supported them. The Labour Party did not support them at the time.

In spite of that and the lack of trust between the public service unions and the Government that followed those cuts, we managed to proceed with and get agreement on the Croke Park agreement which was then used as the template for public service reform and industrial peace since 2010. When one looks at the situation across the world where many public and civil servants took to the streets to pursue objectives, what we had here since 2010 is a tribute to everybody who was involved - the implementation committee, the Department, the Ministers of the day and, more particularly, everybody on the ground who delivered substantially under Croke Park. They delivered changes in work practices, particularly in An Garda Síochána and the health and prison services, at a time when they knew there would be no increase.

People have taken very tough hits in the service. There is now an even greater breakdown of communication than had been the case in 2010 after two pay cuts. There seems to be a complete gulf in communications. It is very difficult to understand why the Government was unable to get the extension of Croke Park over the line when we were able to get the original Croke Park agreement through. One must look at the sequence of events since the draft agreement was made.

The Government sat back. It was not as passionate about supporting the agreement as the other side was about opposing it. Deputy Kitt spoke about how an equality analysis was carried out. There were a range of statements and surveys showing the difficulties of the proposed agreement. The thing that stuck in the craw of many workers was the continued assurance of Ministers that anybody whose core income was under €65,000 would be unaffected. That is true but one's core income could be so low that one depends on overtime and premium payments to make up the difference that pays one's mortgage and food bill. One gets those premium and overtime payments because one is working at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. defending the public interest and looking after the public's health and people's property. If those overtime and premium payments are being gutted, as they were in this deal, the assurance that one's core pay is not being affected is of little comfort. That is what kicked in on the agreement. People who were depending on premium and overtime payments because of the nature of their jobs looked at others who did not get overtime or premium payments but were on a much higher core salary and saw that their conditions were not going to be affected. That introduced the element of unfairness in this deal. This was not tackled but was allowed to take hold because it was true.

One then had the pot for those unions that stayed in and other difficulties. On one weekend at the beginning of October, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform was saying one thing and another Minister was saying the complete opposite. At the same time, those opposing the deal were absolutely resolute and organised.

If the Government reflects on what happened in those few weeks, it will note that this was when much of the damage to the agreement occurred. It fails the fairness test because of the dependence on overtime and premium payments. If the Government had first addressed the issue of the dependence of many on their so-called premium and overtime payments and then worked on an agreement, the industrial relations climate in the public service might be better now.

The inception of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was welcome. I supported its establishment and had envisaged such a Department in October 2010. Public sector reform is essential to the country's recovery. If this reform is implemented in the right way, it will produce savings and also a transformed service that can deal with the changing needs of citizens. I refer to many excellent examples. Revenue online has transformed how we pay taxes and deal with Revenue. Motor tax is payable online. The Internet has significantly changed the way we interface with State services, which services must be moved in that direction. Croke Park I offered a method. When I was a Minister of State, I observed that the higher echelons of the civil and the public service did not believe in public service reform; they think it is somebody else's business. This is an understandable attitude, given the pressures on budgets. However, it must be accepted that reform can deliver budget savings, as well as an enhanced service. I said three years ago that for many Secretaries General and many in senior management, public service reform was an item listed under any other business on the agenda. I am still not convinced it is regarded as anything more than this.

Workers such as teachers, gardaí, nurses and health care professionals in hospitals are the people on the ground and have ideas about reform. They are the ones who can point to the waste of resources and better ways of working. They have put forward ideas which have been passed up the chain, but nothing comes of it. They do not see any sign that their input is valued. This highlights another difficulty encountered in the talks process. The representatives at the talks do not necessarily walk in the shoes of those whom they represent who are the workers on the ground. There was a disconnect on this occasion between some of the negotiators and some of those who worked in the service. It is surely within our capabilities to devise a way for those on the ground who have ideas to suggest changes to their work practices which would result in savings and, more important, in a better service for the patient, the student or the client. Their views need to be respected and taken on board. We have yet to really embrace the ideas of those on the ground which have the capacity to transform services.

It is very important that Mr. Kieran Mulvey is given the space to get on with his job. The LRC is an excellent organisation and Mr. Mulvey has given very significant service to the State. I have utter faith in him. He is the one person in this equation in whom people have trust. Messages from trade unions that they will not co-operate with the LRC are not helpful. If they are serious about trying to achieve a good deal for their members, they need to get involved.

The Government needs to change its use of language. Those earning less than €65,000 are not protected from cuts. I refer to those whose income is predominantly made up of overtime or premium payments. They are taking a hammering in these proposals. They do not like hearing they are protected because they are not. The Government needs to stand back and allow Mr. Mulvey and the LRC do their work. The co-operation of everyone is required in the interests of members. If Croke Park I was achievable after two unilateral cuts, as the Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, likes to refer to them, surely it is within the abilities of the Government to deliver a Croke Park extension.

This is a very important national issue. Nobody has a monopoly of opinions or wisdom. No particular political party acts as the single spokesperson for the trade union movement or the public sector. We are all public representatives and entitled to reflect the views on both sides of the debate. It is disrespectful to Members who all have a mandate to have to listen to members of the Labour Party trying to assert that they are the only spokespersons for public servants and public sector workers. The trade union movement will confirm that this is not the case.

Public servants were taken for granted by the Government throughout the talks process. That is the view they have expressed to me and many others. Unfortunately for the country, the result has shown that they have been taken for granted and the process is now paralysed.

A completely new model of social partnership will be required. For too long we have relied on the existing model which has been in use since the early 1990s. There has been a succession of national partnership agreements which have worked in some fashion. However, history has shown that they have not worked as well as they might have. The current model which is now bust pits employer against employee, larger unions against smaller unions, and the private sector against the public sector. It is very divisive and being played out every day. It is undermining the national mood and dominating the national debate. I agree that it is important to have social cohesion and social harmony and avoid any form of social unrest. Unfortunately, we are heading headlong into that storm and we need to make an effort to remove ourselves from that course of action.

The agreement was reached following all-night talks. The parties were, effectively, in a bunker in Lansdowne House. They were locked in until they came out with an agreement. It is similar to how a pope is elected by having to wait until the white smoke appears. That is not the way to do business which should be conducted in an open and constructive manner. Locking in the parties builds momentum for arriving at a deal at any cost. As we have seen, arriving at a deal at any cost results in a lot of collateral damage. The GRA, the AGSI and the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance, left the talks process. This was not good because the process must be inclusive.

The morning after the agreement was finally reached I took part in a panel discussion on a radio show with a Minister. I will not name the person concerned because she is not in the Chamber. The Government's spin was that the agreement was fair and proportionate, yet the detail of the deal had not been published and the same Minister had not read it. However, she told radio listeners that the deal was fair and proportionate.

People were being taken for granted, but society has moved on. The spin and the sound bite have to be taken out of the presentation by the Government. People want an honest presentation of the facts and figures. The Government lost the dressing room straightaway in that regard. It lost the public servants throughout the process because trade unions and some associations had been marginalised. A new form of social partnership is needed which should be inclusive of the non-trade union groups and associations such as the GRA and the AGSI. I refer to the demonstration held in the basketball arena in Tallaght while the talks were in progress. It was a powerful demonstration by the groups involved and rank and file workers.

At that point, the alarm bells should have been ringing and the Government should have sat up and realised it was in trouble and could not rely on the old guard and the larger trade unions to get the deal over the line. Lessons must be learned from that.

The Government will learn the lessons from the weaknesses of the Croke Park II process, but we also need to discuss the wider issue of reform. Many of the reforms that took place under Croke Park I are positive. Unfortunately, much of what was intended never happened. It was never really discussed in the House that every working day of the week, disputes were taking place in the Labour Court and Labour Relations Commission on issues that had been taken as read under Croke Park I. It should not have happened. There is an onus on public sector workers and their employers and the unions to avoid that type of thing. If something is agreed, it should not require the clogging up of the Labour Court or Labour Relations Commission to interpret it. Squabbles and disputes which should not be taking place are holding back the effectiveness of the public service. If Croke Park II or Croke Park III, or whatever the Government intends to call it, achieves anything, it should address situations in which retired teachers are brought back to fill temporary posts or provide substitution, holiday, maternity or illness cover. There is a cohort of young, highly qualified teachers who are eager and crying out for jobs. They have commitments and families to rear and mortgages to pay. The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, has them in his own constituency. It is not good enough for the Government to say that boards of management are the employers and that the Department cannot interfere as it merely pays the salaries. We must take greater ownership of that issue in particular.

I ask Deputy Brian Hayes to clarify, as Minister of State in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the issue of the Garda payroll budget. It has been widely reported that the payroll budget provided to the Garda this year is sufficient to pay for a force complement of only 12,000. It was reported by Tom Brady and no denial was issued by the Department of Justice and Equality. I sought the relevant documents under the Freedom of Information Act, but my request was declined. The Department informed me that the documents could not be released as they were subject to ongoing negotiation. I am told the Garda force will have to be reduced and that the vehicle for achieving cuts in numbers will be to offer a three-year career break. If the roster is based on a complement of 13,000, where are we going? Is the new roster going to collapse? At a point in time when we need new recruitment into the Garda, it is regrettable that the Minister for Justice and Equality is resiling from it. I will be taking up the matter up with him.

The commercial semi-State sector must come under greater focus when we consider the new form of social partnership, which we should be debating tonight. The inflated salaries of CEOs and top-line management in those bodies affect every citizen directly through the cost to the consumer of products and services. It is a significant issue. Those salaries must be dealt with. It is not good enough to treat the commercial semi-State sector like the banks and say the Government takes a hands-off approach. If the State is a shareholder, it must have a direct input. On public sector reform, recruitment, promotion, discipline and leadership, I note that managers must be empowered to lead. There is an issue with the recruitment of managers currently. For example, has even one local authority manager come from the private sector? I am aware of only two directors of services having come from the private sector. These are self-perpetuating bodies which are running an old boys' club.

The Labour Party says Fianna Fáil gave the banks a blank cheque, but that is not the case. I deflect that bit of populism. I will not even go down the road of discussing the Labour Party's refusal to exercise its mandate on Richie Boucher at today's annual general meeting.

I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words on the motion before the House. We all agree that public servants are dedicated, committed and conscientious and we have all recognised the sacrifices they have made in recent years with huge cuts to their pay. Croke Park II was doomed to failure once the Government threatened workers with a 7% cut if they did not vote "Yes". One cannot threaten workers that one will impose something if they do not do what they are asked. We all recognise the anger of gardaí, nurses, ambulance drivers and the others who voted. They were very angry that they were threatened and told "Do this or else". We must all recognise that the trade union movement has been good for Ireland. National agreements were the key to industrial peace over the past 20 years. I remember entering the House in 1982 when strikes of all types were taking place. There was an oil strike, an ambulance workers' strike and every other kind of strike. The national agreements from the Haughey era onwards brought peace to the country. We did not have as many strikes as we might have.

Politicians must understand something. How can they ask workers to take a pay cut when they see Richie Boucher getting €31,000 on top of his existing €800,000? The ordinary worker is not a fool. He or she rails at that sort of thing. How can union leaders tell their members that they must take a severe pay cut in the national interest when most of those who are negotiating are on €120,000 or €130,000 a year? Front-line workers are not to blame for the current crisis and they should not be the victims of austerity. We all know and have met teachers, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and firemen who carry out their work with diligence and at great danger to themselves. The Government wants to cut their pay and expects them to work extra hours without any financial compensation. The Ministers in this Government obviously do not understand the individual circumstances of those who were being asked to take pay cuts. Those workers have mortgages, kids in college, illness issues, etc., yet the Government wants to impose a unilateral pay cut across the board. That is not acceptable. Reference has been made to the fact that income tax is not being increased, but workers' pay will be decimated by the household charge, water charges, the television licence increase, car tax increases, etc.

I feel sorry for the Minister, having heard Jack O'Connor say that an election is on the way to solve the problem, the horse having bolted on Croke Park II. As that man did not even know his members were going to vote against the deal, the Minister should not put much store in what he says. I agree with Deputy Dara Calleary that we should now leave Kieran Mulvey to do his job without interference from Ministers, the unions or the fat cats in IBEC. IBEC shouts from the rooftops every so often to lecture us on pay cuts for ordinary workers while the fat cats are well looked after on large salaries. I would certainly take what it says with a grain of salt.

I ask the Minister of State to ensure Mr. Mulvey is given all the arms of the State to bring about a solution, and I hope we will not see a vote in the House on unilateral pay cuts of 6% or 7%, as Ministers have threatened. I hope we will see proper negotiations and reach a conclusion to the satisfaction of all.

Taking up the point made by Deputy John Browne, the Government has no intention of cutting across the work of Kieran Mulvey and the LRC over the coming weeks. People who are experts in the area and have a track record of bringing people together to work out a solution need time and space. It is the fervent hope of the Government that we can still find some agreement.

I am a great believer in the principle that jaw-jaw is always better than war-war. At a time of such uncertainty, the last thing the country needs is industrial warfare. I recognise the extraordinary sacrifices of public servants in this country. Some 30,000 people have left the service over the course of the past few years. The total public sector pay and pensions bill four years ago was €20 billion; from this year, it will be €17.5 billion. Much of that was done by the previous Government.

It is good to have a historical perspective, even on this side of the House.

It is because we did it that the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, is on that side of the House.

I did not interrupt anyone. From speaking to people across the European Union institutions, I know that the reduction in the number of people working in the service at a time of exceptional demand and the reduction in the public sector pay and pension bill without loss of days through strikes and industrial action is quite an achievement.

There are two fundamental principles required and I hope everyone in the House accepts them. We must find savings of €300 million this year and annualised savings of €1 billion by 2015. We want to do this through agreement and discussion with trade unions. There were a myriad of reasons people voted against Croke Park II. The proposal was fair and balanced and those at the top of the tree had to pay more because they have broader shoulders. There was flexibility in the deal; for example, prison officers and those who worked in the Defence Forces managed to negotiate a deal because of the flexibility offered. Those earning over €100,000 saw permanent reductions in income while those earning less than €65,000 did not see reductions in basic income, although there were reductions through premium pay, overtime and allowances. In the context of the proposed agreement, we guaranteed that increments would be paid, albeit at a phased level. It was a fair and balanced agreement but we are now in a new space. I ask people to look at this afresh and see if we can move forward.

The situation will not be helped by the comments of Sinn Féin. The party is totally incapable of telling people the truth on this issue. It maintains we can take out everyone earning over €100,000, of whom there are 6,000 out of 290,000, and reduce their salaries to €100,000. I read the Sinn Féin pre-budget submission, which refers to an annualised cost saving for 2013 of €102 million. If we take half of that for this year, €50 million, it amounts to one sixth of the savings we need this year. It cannot be done by taking out everyone earning over €100,000, putting them up against the wall and inviting former comrades in the IRA to do what they can to them. That will not solve the problem and the Sinn Féin members know it.

They do know it and they continue to get away with it. It is my task - and, I suspect, that of the Opposition - to remind Sinn Féin of the lie perpetuated in its documents and based on its figures. We need to move the situation forward. If we are to make the savings, it must be done across the board and in the fairest way possible. It must be done in a proportionate way, as in the Croke Park II proposal. Mr. Mulvey has a good record and needs the time and space, with politicians butting out of the debate for the coming weeks, to see if a way forward can be found. I hope it can.

The audacity of the Government never ceases to amaze me. These are the people who introduced funny mathematics into Irish politics, with the idea that cutting a few top wages would save billions. Sinn Féin is very modest with its proposal for a few hundred million euros. When Fine Gael, and particularly the Labour Party, were in opposition, they used to come in with savings that amounted to €1 million or €500,000 and the savings were going to solve the whole economic problem. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Sinn Féin has certainly learnt lessons from funny mathematics. Members of the Opposition remember the €4 billion in savings that the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, was going to find in the health budget by eliminating waste. I wished I had a one-on-one opportunity to give him the Estimate and ask him to put his finger on the savings.

I do not think the Government understands that the public service has rejected the deal. If there were threats, they came from the Government to get the deal through to the effect that legislation would be introduced to force through the deal. That would have caused industrial chaos and I am glad the Government had the common sense to realise it must listen to people when its ideas were rejected and that it must work another way.

With a budget of €50 billion, I could never understand how the Government got itself into this situation. The Minister of State said the Croke Park agreement was a good and ground-breaking deal. We were getting major reform in the public service and I have seen how some public servants have worked in a fantastic way to make changes and savings. Some are better than others. The Croke Park agreement was due to run until the end of the year. When governments enter into agreements, even if a new government comes in, the tradition is to honour the agreement of the old government. Otherwise, it is impossible for anyone to do business with any government. Inevitably, the cycle of agreements of all types straddles different governments. I cannot understand why the Government rushed the fence and created an arbitrary €300 million figure that it must find from one source, the wages of public servants, rather than seeing out the Croke Park agreement and beginning negotiations at this time, allowing plenty of time to develop a successor agreement. In industrial relations, one needs trust. How can one trust a government that could not see out an agreement entered into in good faith by the trade union movement?

As the Minister of State pointed out, the success we have had in cutting the cost of the public service wage bill is testament to the fact that Croke Park I was a very good and a very fair deal.

The second issue with which I would like to deal is the unreality of going to public servants, many of whom are between the ages of 30 and 50, and, in particular, to front-line workers who are even more concentrated between those ages because of the lack of recruitment in recent years and because of the nature of the jobs they do. For example, gardaí, who normally retire after 30 years, are in the 30 to 50 age group. We all know people in that age group have mortgages, face financial pressures and are trying to rear families but they do not have enough money. We also know that in many cases during the boom, the public service wage in a household was the subsidiary wage and mortgages and commitments were taken on based on two wages, of which it was the smaller. We now know that in many cases, that wage is the primary one and that, combined with the wage cuts in the public service, loss of overtime and loss of other benefits, it has put an intolerable burden on families.

The Government wonders why the agreement was rejected. Let us be honest about it. If one is between 55 or 60 years of age, one's mortgage is paid and one's family is grown up and educated. Of course, one can take a wage cut, although one might have to tighten one's belt a bit but it is all doable and sustainable. Many people in the public service are in a totally different financial situation from others. However, because this Government has been singularly anti-family in its budgets, the middle group, in particular, has reached the point that it has told the Government quite clearly that it cannot take any more. This year the Government hit it with child benefit cuts, property tax, a PRSI increase and car tax. That is hitting families which, in many cases, have mortgages that are disproportionate to the salaries they have.

If the Minister wants to go back to public servants again, he should deal with the mortgage issue and not by saying 95,000 people can reach personal arrangements which will mean they will have to account for their personal circumstances in a way that somebody even in receipt of jobseeker's allowance would not have to. At least if one gets jobseeker's allowance, one gets the money and nobody checks whether one has a Sky package. It is time we started to understand the situation ordinary people are in.

Why will the Government not raise taxes for those earning more than €100,000, many of whom are in the private sector? Why was there such a paltry cut comparatively to salaries of more than €100,000? I have done the mathematics on this and I used to point it out when in government but those opposite did not want to listen. It would not raise a huge amount of money but it would be symbolically important and people would understand that those who can pay most will do so.

People are at breaking point and are very disillusioned that this Government seems to be oblivious to the problems faced by ordinary, decent and hardworking families. Will the Government pause and deal with the mortgage issue first and not by keeping a record of expenses of ordinary families trying to rear children, who are our future? When that is done, let us go back to the table at the end of this year and honour an agreement entered into by Government and workers in good faith. Then the Government might make some progress and get people to listen.

I welcome the opportunity to conclude this debate. I will start by reiterating what is contained in the motion. It recognises the huge sacrifices made by public sector employees and pensioners in recent years; the ongoing savings being delivered by the current Croke Park agreement; the significant benefit to the economy and society that the absence of industrial action in the public sector has achieved; the need to ensure that further reductions in the overall public sector pay and pensions bill occur in a fair and structured manner; and the importance of a shared commitment to reform by all stakeholders in the delivery of public services. I cannot understand why everybody in this House does not agree to that and why the Government will not accept this motion. I am surprised by that but then again, having listened to the debate, I am not really surprised because I was quite entertained by what was said by some Government backbenchers. A number of them accused us of making unilateral cuts to public servants' pay. The next speaker complained that we were paying public servants too much. However, even considering those contrasting views, we ended up with Croke Park I which was passed and continues in operation to the end of this year. That agreement has ensured reduced staff numbers, reform, pay savings and non-pay savings. The third report on progress up to the end of last year will be published shortly.

The Taoiseach said again today that there is no guarantee of job security if there is no new deal, which is not helping the process. However, I remind him that there is a guarantee. Croke Park I guarantees job security and it runs until the end of this year. There is no reason it should be set aside.

Yesterday, the Government asked Mr. Kieran Mulvey, the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission, to contact all parties to see if it is possible to come back with some proposals. The Government was right to do that and to want to re-engage with its employees, which an employer should do. However, that process must be given a chance and for the Taoiseach to say this morning that there is no guarantee of job security if we do not get a deal is unhelpful.

Half an hour after the Taoiseach said that, Government Deputies voted through the start of the 2013 Estimates which included the Croke Park II pay deal adjustments that were negotiated by the LRC. On the one hand, the Government is handing it over to Mr. Kieran Mulvey for a couple of weeks while on the other hand, it is threatening people's job security and voting through the Estimates, including the rejected pay deal. The Government is damaging any prospect of goodwill. The actions of the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Howlin, in the Chamber this morning have made Mr. Kieran Mulvey's job even more difficult and they should have considered that before they took these actions but then again, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, probably presumed that because the Labour Party was in government, the unions would fall for the deal and it would go through. The Minister set out to divide and conquer and before the deal was even finalised, he ensured a large number of public sector employees were excluded from the process by ensuring they walked out. If he had wanted to keep them in the talks, they would have stayed but he did not want to do that. In the couple of weeks when the voting was taking place, he threatened a 7% pay cut across the board. Another Minister from the same party said on television one Sunday night that there was wriggle room if the deal was rejected, which added to the confusion. A deal can be achieved if there is fairness and if a disproportionate burden is not placed on some people.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has complicated matters by confirming since the deal was rejected that there will be permanent changes affecting the pay and hours of work of staff at the lower pay levels in the public service, whereas the cuts for the majority of those on salaries above €65,000 will be reversed. There are temporary cuts for higher earning staff, while there are permanent cuts for those on lower wages.

Fairness is the key. The motion calls for three simple steps: immediate engagement by the Government with public sector employees with a view to securing a balanced agreement that could secure widespread support among public sector employees - I do not see the problem with this and do not understand how anybody could; confirmation that the Government will not legislate for an across the board 7% pay cut - I cannot see how it could do this if it is asking Mr. Kieran Mulvey to examine the matter; and a commitment to full disclosure of all correspondence that has not been made public and which was issued as part of the proposed deal to various trade unions. I cannot understand how everybody in the House could not agree to this. I, therefore, call on the Government parties to support the motion.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 48.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 80; Níl, 47.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Question declared carried.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 April 2013.