I get a sense that the Government does not fully appreciate the terrible impact that tomorrow's strike by healthcare assistants, laboratory and theatre operatives and chefs will have on our health services. These workers are the cogs and wheels of our health service. It cannot operate without them. Patients will be discommoded. Elective admissions will be cancelled. Necessary X-rays, scans and other procedures will not happen for many patients if the strike goes ahead. I raised this issue with the Taoiseach yesterday and he said the Government wanted to ensure that these workers are paid adequately and are fulfilled in their roles. The Taoiseach attacked me and my party and tried to lecture us for daring to even raise the issue yesterday and for saying something similar to what he said. He also criticised my party for raising the issue of low pay within the Defence Forces and for tabling a motion last week to highlight the terrible conditions that many in our Defence Forces have to endure. The Taoiseach has a tendency to be dismissive when it comes to low-paid workers and their situation.
When we on this side of the House raised the issue of the more than €1 billion of additional expenditure on the national children’s hospital or the €2.5 billion additional expenditure on the national broadband plan the Taoiseach dismissed our concerns. He also dismissed the concerns of the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform who warned him that this broadband project did not represent value for money. He had no problem then with the massive overspends and the runaway nature of the spending on both those projects. He dismissed anybody who raised any concerns about them, yet when it comes to low-paid workers in our health services and Defence Forces the Taoiseach gets on his high horse, adopts a dismissive tone and attacks the Opposition for daring to even raise the issues. The health service workers have abided by the public service stability agreement. Their unions have adhered to it. The process has been ongoing since 2015. The Government, however, has put preconditions on a referral to the Labour Court and that has remained the stumbling block to this issue. The HSE has agreed to pay but the Government stopped that. It wants to try to fix the outcome in advance of the hearing. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed in the talks that it would consider paying the money owed to the workers in 2021. Is it not the case that the real agenda on the Government side is to kick this out to 2021 and not to deal with it now as per the public service stability agreement? That is at the core of this. The Government has not played with a straight bat on this issue.