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Croke Park deal ‘needs renegotiation’

The Irish Times – Saturday, November 19, 2011

MARTIN WALL, Industry Correspondent

THE CROKE Park agreement on public service pay and reform is unsustainable and needs to be renegotiated, the chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee has said. Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said that under the deal the pay and pensions of staff in the public service were being protected.

He said that only 58 per cent of the workforce in the country had a pension while 42 per cent had not.

“But those 42 per cent who cannot afford a pension for themselves are contributing to the pension of the public sector. It is creating a two-tier workforce, it is creating a two-tier pension scheme and it has to be renegotiated.”

Mr McGuinness said that in the context of 37,500 staff leaving the public service under the Government’s new reform measures announced on Thursday, it was clear that there were going to be “serious difficulties” in frontline areas. “We are not focusing on where we need to focus, which is at management level – get the best practices in there and strengthen our frontline services.”

Mr McGuinness was speaking after addressing the Public Affairs Ireland conference. During that address, he said that off the top of his head he could probably identify five or six public service agencies that would be run in a better and cheaper manner by private companies as well as other bodies that should be amalgamated or shut down.

“The only reason why that has not been done up to now is that governments were prepared to waste money rather than talk sense to trade unions, culminating in that great monument to sacred cows, the Croke Park agreement.

“That monument is now being eyed by technocrats who have no respect for cloud cuckoo land and have a great desire to pull down any monument built to false gods. The Croke Park agreement certainly falls into that category.”

Mr McGuinness said that “Public Services (Ireland) Ltd” was mismanaged, inefficient and largely indifferent to the needs of its clients. “The company is in a mess, administrators are demanding efficiency and cost-cutting in all areas and our shareholders are deeply disappointed and angry with its directors.”

Mr McGuinness said it was evident that many senior officials who appeared before the committee “still have not grasped that they now live in a different world, where condescension and stalling do not work and detailed answers have to be given, which should lead them to question the culture that encouraged them to put their trust in the status quo”.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said yesterday that the party supported the implementation of the Croke Park agreement. He said Mr McGuinness’s comments were made in his capacity as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

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