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Public Sector Pay

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 2 July 2015

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Ceisteanna (4)

Seán Fleming


4. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on whether the conditions for a financial emergency as set out in financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation still apply; his plans to unwind this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26606/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Public)

What are the Minister's views on whether the conditions for the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, Acts still apply and will he outline his plan for an orderly winding down of the legislation? When will we have the report now due relating to the FEMPI legislation?

On the Deputy's last question, the report is already before the House. I signed off on it on 29 June and it should now be available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2010 were introduced unilaterally by the previous Administration to deal with the fiscal crisis.  The Government introduced the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Act 2011 on foot of a referendum of the people, and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013 following negotiation and agreement with public sector trade unions. These Acts are collectively known as the FEMPI legislation.

In my statutory role under the FEMPI legislation, I am required to carry out a review and report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the operation, effectiveness and impact of the Acts and to consider whether any of the provisions of the Acts continues to be necessary. As I indicated, my most recent report was completed and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with the legislative requirements on 29 June. Regrettably, given the scale of the financial crisis arising from the actions of the previous Administration, it is required to continue the FEMPI measures in operation.  The expenditure reductions and savings generated by the legislation remain an integral and necessary part of the financial adjustment required to meet our deficit targets under the Stability and Growth Pact. 

I have indicated in the report that, subject to the ratification of the proposals made by the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, and the associations representing public servants, the Government approved my proposal to bring forward the necessary amendments to the legislation to facilitate implementation of the agreement during the course of next year.

I thank the Minister for his response. He has indicated that he will make any change that might be required to the FEMPI legislation to facilitate the latest public sector pay agreement. However, he is saying, on the one hand, that we are still in a financial emergency and, on the other, that we can give pay increases to public servants. I agree with the latter but not the former. The FEMPI measures were introduced in 2009 and we are now in a different landscape as a result of the agreements we put in place. The Minister inherited these measures and largely implemented them faithfully, which has led us to a situation where there is no longer a need for the emergency measures as originally contemplated in 2009. Will he talk to the Government Chief Whip about organising a debate on the FEMPI legislation in this House or, alternatively, arrange for a debate on the matter at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform? I am sure the Minister would welcome the opportunity to attend a meeting of that committee to discuss the most recent report. It would be very helpful to have that discussion before the summer recess.

Holding debates in the House is a matter for discussion among the Whips. I do not agree with the Deputy that we either have all or none of the FEMPI legislation, which is what he seems to be saying. There is consensus arising from the previous debates we have had on these matters that the measures must be wound down over time. We cannot take a hit of in excess of €2 billion in one fell swoop. It must be done over time so as not to jeopardise the economic progress the Government has made. Assuming that the public sector unions endorse the Lansdowne Road agreement, the provisions in it will require legislation to bring them into effect. I will bring that legislation to the House in the autumn, at which time we will have a full debate on the proposals.

Would the Minister be amenable to my asking the secretariat of the finance committee to invite him to attend a meeting to discuss the issue? Such engagement would be very useful because we have not had a discussion on the FEMPI measures for some time, either at the committee or in the Chamber. I hope the Minister will agree to it. If he does, I will ask the Chairman of the committee to arrange a meeting as a matter of urgency.

The difficulty is that there is not very much time remaining in this session. I hope I will be able to facilitate the discussion the Deputy is proposing. I would certainly welcome such an engagement.