Croke deal traps could cause chaos, says union

THE largest civil service union will today slam commentators and politicians who, it will claim, are shamefully denigrating public sector workers.

The staunch defence will come less than 48 hours after Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said many parts of the public service “are not fit for purpose”.

In a speech to the annual delegate conference of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU), deputy general secretary Eoin Ronayne will attack economic commentators and business leaders who have been urging trade unions to show more realism in their response to the economic crisis.

Mr Ronayne will tell delegates that CPSU members know more about reality than right-wing commentators and politicians who seek to enhance their careers and incomes by denigrating lower-paid public-service workers.

Referring to the Croke Park Agreement, Mr Ronayne will warn delegates that it involves potential traps which if triggered could cause industrial mayhem.

The deputy secretary general will also tell delegates that trade unions are at a crossroads and must prepare to strike against forces that would return workers to the past.

In his last annual conference, outgoing CPSU general secretary Blair Horan will also criticise the level of abuse levelled at public servants.

Mr Howlin, speaking at a separate conference earlier this week, said that while public servants themselves were “our greatest assets”, there needed to be a “major cultural change” in the service as a whole.

The minister said there was “much to do to reform the institutions of the state” — both in terms of political and public service structures.

“Ireland’s current crisis has shaken our systems of governance to their core,” he said.

“We know that the Irish public service is full of committed and hard-working individuals, in all sectors and at all levels. But we also know that many parts of the Irish public service, as they currently operate, are not fit for purpose.

“We need a leaner, more efficient, better integrated and responsive public service, one that can meet the needs of citizens and industry over the coming years.”

Mr Howlin said this would require a “major cultural change” in the public service.

“Culture is perhaps the most difficult thing to manage in any system, but it is also often the most important factor too,” he said.

“I believe that changing attitudes — to embrace a more open and accountable form of public service — is the key to reform. We must also place the citizen firmly at the centre of how we think and what we do.

“But this will not happen by accident. We must drive this change. We must win hearts and minds by putting in place the structures and processes that will support public servants taking ownership of the change process.”

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