PAUL MILLS: Public sector unions are stretching credibility, again

Our public sector unions, despite their repeated claims that their members are more educationally qualified than their private sector comparators, still haven’t grasped that they do not generate the wealth that this country needs to sustain its economy, writes Paul Mills.

The public sector facilitates but does not actually make it happen. 

The wealth that is created is generated by the private sector. One cannot exist without the other.

It should be a team effort but it’s often not.

Now every time we get to this stage of any dialogue on public sector pay, the accusation is that the media or this or that group is trying to drive a wedge between the public and private sectors. 

The reality is much simpler. 

If anyone is trying to do it it’s the major public sector unions — particularly the ones with the perceived ability to bring a weak Government to its knees.

Following the successful result of the threat to strike by the forces of law and order, other public sector unions have chosen to ignore the economic omens and are also threatening strike action if their demands are not dealt with post haste.

They were originally to be dealt with prior to the end of the Lansdowne Road agreement but they now demand that the issues are dealt with immediately.

That’s ‘strike one’ against this fragile Government who let the genie well and truly out of the bottle when it accepted the recommendation to try to placate the gardaí.

The simple matter is that we continue to live beyond our means.

Our debt levels are in the stratosphere. We continue to borrow billions every year just to oil the wheels of the State. 

Do these unions and their members honestly believe that we need to borrow more and saddle their kids with the debt for generations to come?

Perhaps, they would prefer for more of their children to head overseas to see if they can make a living there, with the probability they will never return?

Some of these unions are claiming that they just want to get back to the wage levels that were there before the recession. 

Others are claiming it’s about equal pay for equal work and that the new lower paid, more recent recruits should be paid the same as those already in the job.

SIPTU, on the other hand, is seeking to have indicated that its members get at least €1,000 more in 2017 than was scheduled under Lansdowne.

In fact, its president Jack O’Connor has rejected any suggestions that the choice is between better pay and improved services. 

He’s either being naïve or disingenuous. If you only have a certain amount of funds, you cannot spend more unless you risk all by re-mortgaging the future. 

Will he tell us where the money is going to come from, or does he see that as someone else’s problem?

Paying more when you have only so much, means less money for services that are already starved of funding. It means that those who can least afford it suffer the consequences.

It was stated in this newspaper earlier in the week that Ireland is facing into a “perfect storm of economic unrest” following the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.

The Brits do not know what they are doing and none of us know what Mr Trump is going to do.

We do realise, if we have any sense, that both could spell very bad news for Ireland and that uncertainty is the only certainty. 

At worst, Irish industry could be decimated as Mr Trump encourages US companies to return home by fair or foul means.

It would be foolish in the extreme for the Government to make matters even worse by allowing the unions to dictate how the economy is managed during these uncertain and possibly turbulent times.

Yet, we must be concerned because this Government looks extremely wobbly and unable to sustain even the mildest of pressure.

None of us should forget that without the efforts of mainly US-owned firms and the heavy lifting they did during the economic downturn, the climb out of our crisis would not have even started.

Now courtesy of Brexit and Mr Trump, we can take nothing for granted. 

To a sensible person, even 2018 might be too soon to expect any sort of pay back.

More people, but no money for the services they will be employed for, is the stuff of The Twilight Zone.

Now were unions to stick to seeking equal pay for those colleagues on lower pay there just might be more support forthcoming from those of us who work in the private sector.


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