The “silly season” is over it’s time to disband the Croke Park Agreenment.

Financially the last two years for me have been really tough but fortunately I have my health and have struggled through. It’s not often I post anything political on my blog, but the proposed health cuts last week were so shocking, hitting the most vulnerable in society I felt so annoyed that I had to write something. I have summarised the proposed cuts below from an article in the Irish Examiner Friday Aug 31 By Evelyn Ring and Paul O’Brien

  • 50% cuts to agency staff and 10% cut to overtime — saving €35m
    5.5% cut to home help hours — saving €10.8m
  • Cuts to 200 homecare packages — saving about €1.7m
  • Reduction of personal assistant hours — saving €10m
  • More than 50,000 medical card holders will no longer qualify for a range of drugs and nutritional supplements.

In the same article in the same article Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association said

The cuts were “very disturbing” at a time when €170m was being paid out in automatic pay increases this year under the Croke Park deal.

“I have serious concerns about patient safety, not just over the next four months, but next year, when a further €700m will be taken out of the health system.”

I fully understand the scale of the problems facing the current government in preparing this year’s budget. It difficult to understand why the Government would consider such cuts and yet it refuses to revisit the terms of Croke Park Agreement. We are constantly reminded that Croke Park is delivering savings, but is it?

Yes there has been substantial reduction in numbers but most of these got handsome rewards for leaving. Those coming in will be doing so on a much lower rate and without some of the nonsensical perks, such as changing cheque time, eat at your desk allowance. These changes will have an effect but will take years to make a difference to the economy.

Minister Varadkar said at the weekend that the terms of the Croke Park Agreement must honoured, saying it had bought industrial peace, yes it has but at a very high price. We need changes right now to get this country back on its feet, and Croke Park has ring fenced some of the most outrageous allowances and pay increments that need be stripped away in 2012. One of the changes recently announced under Croke Park were the announcement that there would be a reduction on the number of day sick pay un-certed down from a 11 per year to 7 over a two year period. Well thats a gain you might say until you find out it will not take effect until 2014, if the countries ecominical situation was not so serious you might laugh.

Fine Gael/Labour government should have renegotiated the Croke Park Agreement from day one of entering power. Reducing the numbers simply won’t deliver enough saving to get us out of this mess, pay should have been reduced across the board and all increments struck out for at least 3 years and at the end of that time a reformed structure how it would operate .  An article in Irish Examiner Thursday, April 26, 2012 By Lyndsey Telford indicates the level of saving available through reduction in allowances is huge.

The State pays about €1.5bn a year to staff in relation to allowances, which include money for overtime, expenses and premium payments.

Think about what that money could do to assist some of 475,000 + unemployed get back to work.

We can get an idea of  how much pay some of these top public servants are paid in an answer to Dessie Ellis TD in the Dail on June 19th 2012, by Minister Phil Hogan he supplied the pay and allowance available for County Managers (I have only included Dublin Authorities)

  • The Dublin City manager earns €189,301
  • Fingal, South Dublin €162,062
  • Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County  €156,230

A Manager or Assistant Manager may claim an allowance in respect of individual or casual entertainment expenses ranging from €2,095 to €6,858

County and City Managers with designated responsibility for a Regional Authority may claim an allowance of €5,662 per annum in respect of these responsibilities.

County managers have up to 42 days each year.

Given the poor quality of planning we have had in this country, the returns for these levels of pay and expenses are

Finally on the previous day James Reilly release his proposed Health care cuts and article from an Irish Independent, August 30 2012 By Fergus Black informed us

Public sector workers earned an average weekly wage of €918.99 at the end of June this year compared with €611.66 in the private sector, according to latest earnings and labour cost figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

To be fair not everyone in the public sector is on high wage, so the €918.99 figure must contain several hundreds of senior managers on a very high wage. Here we get an idea of the number of reduction in the public sector:

In terms of numbers, the total reduction in public sector numbers over the three years from 2009 was 36,800 — an 8.8pc decline.

While in the private sector we can see over a 4 year period the scale of job losses was gigantic.

Just over 1.1 million people are employed in the private sector, almost 247,000 fewer than in 2008.

You can see that’s quite a contrast so why are our politician’s continuing to insist that Croke Park cannot be renegotiated?  We are really are living in 2 parallel universes in one we have the most vulnerable in society are the easy target for cuts while in the other we have a group of well-paid permanent employed shielded by public sector union who are more interested in protecting their own wage and perks than building a more equal Ireland. This shameful behaviour went on right throughout the Celtic Tiger/social partnership years and in my view was as reckless as the action of the bankers, now it is the most vulnerable in society who are paying the price.

Last week James Reilly was either very clever in proposing such swingeing cuts they would most likely be rejected by his Government colleagues ad the public, or given the scale of the deficit facing his department this year he was backed into a corner given 70% of his budget is tied up in wages untouchable through Croke Park he had ran out of options.

Finna Fail and Sinn Fein have both put down a motion of no confidence in James Reilly, unfortunately it’s the wrong Minister in the dock. Brendan Howlin as the Minister for Public Expenditure must bring about greater savings through Croke Park immediately or better still disband it. This is not a case of public sector bashing, most of whom are decent people doing a good job. There should be no discussion the working agreements and policies set up on their behalf by public sector unions and successive governments must be taken apart if Ireland as a nation is going to move forward.

Data from Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and from the Oireachtas website.

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