O'Rourke: Unpaid leave proposal parked

Proposals to secure some of the €1.3bn savings necessary from the public pay bill by means of unpaid leave were thrust into further doubt this afternoon following a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.

Talks between union leaders and Government are ongoing, with unions insisting that a direct wage cut will not be tolerated and that unpaid leave is the only proposal acceptable to them.

However Fianna Fáil TD Mary O'Rourke said the Government is now solely focussed on immediate and permanent savings.

Speaking to reporters following the lengthy party meeting, Mrs. O'Rourke said it had been decided to press ahead with achieving the necessary savings in the manner already laid out by the Government, including through direct cuts to public pay.

"For now we implement the immediate savings next Wednesday (budget day)," Mrs. O'Rourke said.

"We will not be going the route of (unpaid leave) right now to realise money. If it realises money in the future, fine, but not right now."

Also speaking outside the meeting, Tipperary Soutth TD Mattie McGrath said a clear message came from backbenchers to the Cabinet on the issue of unpaid leave.

"Union leaders can't just sail in in the latter days and do a sweet deal for themselves," Deputy McGrath said.

"It's just not going down with the public, and not going down with us."

However as the talks went on at Government Buildings - and looked set to continue late into the night - union leaders denied claims that the proposal was off the table.

"People are making comment on a proposal that's unfinished," said IMPACT General Secretary Peter McLoone.

"What we are doing today is working out the practical application of the unpaid leave arrangement," and we are doing that in a way that seeks to protect services to ensure that there is no disruption.

"So I think people should reserve comment," Mr McLoone said.

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