Gavan Reilly's Portfolio writings, ramblings, mumblings

Budget 2010: ‘Worst is yet to come’, says local SIPTU branch

THE COUNTRY’S largest trade union, SIPTU, have attacked the Budget’s proposals to massively cut the wages of public servants.

Speaking to the Kilkenny People, SIPTU’s Kilkenny branch organiser, Denis Hynes, said that the union was “very disappointed, to put it mildly” and heavily criticised local TDs and the Government for voting in favour of “absolutely disgraceful” cuts.

“I don’t think the Budget was fair; I’m still waiting for an announcement from [local Fianna Fáil TD] John McGuinness to say he had got what he wanted. I think that the public sector will remember the Budget on General Election day when it comes – sooner rather than later – and fell that people in the public sector, especially those left on €30,000 a year can afford that kind of a hit in income.

“That the ministers and TDs in the Dáil – and our own TDs in Kilkenny – could see that someone serving as a Home Help assistant is paying more, percentage-wise, than the TDs themselves is absolutely disgraceful,” he said.

Ongoing disputes
Asked how the union’s public sector members were likely to respond to the pay cuts, Hynes said the immediate reaction was one of anger, and that there was “no doubt in my mind that the reaction will be one of industrial unrest throughout 2010. I’d be reasonably confident that we’d be facing a year of ongoing disputes.

“This isn’t a case of workers considering strike action in 2010 for the sake of it; this is a case where the job is no good any more. There’s a 12 per cent pay cut being imposed on workers, not to mention levies, and there’s already a cut in overtime. Workers in the public sector are looking at a loss of about 25 per cent.”

Hynes was adamant that public sector workers been unfairly treated under the Budget measures. “If you walk down the street in Kilkenny and meet publicans or businesspeople – and they’ve all had tough times – they’ll be reasonably satisfied with the Budget. If you meet a public sector worker – a nurse, a support staff member, a fireman – they’ll tell you they’re in real financial trouble.”

Referring to the recent breakdown in negotiations between the government and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on a national pay deal, Hynes remarked, “I think that the Government lost out on a golden opportunity in doing a deal with the Unions to try and bridge 2010. As would be agreed and said already by public workers, there’s already been a saving of almost €2.5bn this year to date in the public sector because of pay freezes, the new pension levy, and the moratorium on new hiring.”

Hynes was also critical of what he saw as a tokenistic attempt by the Government to solicit money from Irish expatriates by asking them to contribute €200,000 per year in order to retain their Irish passports. “It’s disgraceful. They’re being asked to pay if they can, not if they will. It’s a really poor response when you look at the millions made in this country already, and how it’s all been invested in foreign shores.

Everything in this country is done to ensure that we don’t upset the wealthy,” Healy concluded. “What’s happening is that we’re dealing with a ticking bomb. Services are going to be hugely affected in 2010… I think that the worst is yet to come.”