THE Government’s handling of the botched social partnership talks has been branded as “stupid” by Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.
He said the Government had compromised the opportunity to get long-term reform of the public service in exchange for “short-term political popularity”.
He asked why the negotiations had been left until the last minute, before next week’s budget, and did not begin immediately after the publication of Colm McCarthy Bord Snip Nua report.
“For months we have been saying to them they needed to get down and get into discussions about the kind of reforms which should be achieved.
“They have gone for the short term fix. I believe it is stupid. I believe it is short sighted. And I believe is another example of an incompetent Government that not only have got this issue wrong, they also got the banks’ issue wrong and, of course, they were the people who got us the economic mess in the first place,” he said.
Mr Gilmore said the Government had been given an extraordinary opportunity to achieve reform of the public sector but had ruined it.
He said his party and Fine Gael had backed them to seek the €1.3billion in savings required.
And he said the trade unions had been willing to change rostering arrangements and the structure of the working day which was a significant concession.
But instead of working on this the Government blew them out of the water and it will be very difficult to bring them back around the negotiating table again, he said.
Fine Gael’s deputy finance spokesman Kieran O’Donnell said the Government’s strategy was “no way to run a country” and unfair to people worried about their jobs.
“If a deal was to be struck it should have been struck long ago. Instead what we have had from this Government is a total lack of leadership and a ham-fisted nature in how they dealt with these talks,” he said.
He said the collapse of the talks with a budget due next was a bad omen for the prospects of an economic recovery.
“This is extremely worrying. People are looking for certainty and leadership and they are getting neither from this Taoiseach and this Government.
“Whoever is to blame the Government got this wrong. They haven’t been in anyway constructive in how they carried out these negotiations.
“They have allowed it now to go up to the end and now we’ve a situation where we are five days out we are nowhere near conclusion of these negotiations,” he said.
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