Public sector needs to get a grip on harsh financial reality

We’ve heard many times over the last few weeks that we must not do anything that will result in a return to the ways of the bad old days that preceded the crash in 2009.

Public sector needs to get a grip on harsh financial reality

Indeed, some of our more experienced and cunning politicians, people who should know better, were heard to utter what is now clearly becoming little more than a mantra.

The simple fact is that as they uttered those words, they themselves were facilitating actions that will, almost inevitably, result in a free-for-all across the public sector with demands to not only match what the gardaí have been offered but to actually surpass them.

But as they welcomed the decision by the gardaí to suspend their strike threat, they were telling everyone else, who felt a pay claim coming on, that there would be no increased terms over and above the Lansdowne Road Agreement for anyone else.

By finding innovative ways of giving the gardaí more money, they have invariably opened up a veritable Pandora’s Box of demands.

By now, trying to put the genie back in the bottle, as it were, they are effectively implying that everyone else is an idiot who will be taken in by their sudden rush for prudence.

By conceding to the gardaí they have lost credibility. They have done so without any guarantees that the gardaí are going to accept the terms.

Listening to the striking teachers and the Government, alike, is a little like being at a pantomime.

On the one hand, the teachers are blaming the Government for the closed schools.

On the other hand, the Government is blaming the teachers. The reality is that they are both at fault.

Governments of the past conceded two benchmarking exercises over a decade ago that simply conceded to union demands and granted pay increases not on the basis of validity but on that of expediency.

These increases were conceded when money was rolling into the State’s coffers.

To the private sector those days are now but a dim and distant memory. Unemployment has taken its toll.

Emigration of our best and brightest, our potential for future success, has taken its toll. Yet, the public sector seems to believe that they can pretend the last seven or eight years were just a bad dream.

Sometime soon reality has to find its way into the frame. Sure, we’d all like to go back to the glory days when we could have two or three overseas holidays a year.

The simple fact, is we do not have the resources. That is not being negative — it’s a fact of life that we are still borrowing billions every year.

By borrowing even more we are risking any future growth and we are betting that all will be fine for us.

If we open our eyes and look around us, even for a few moments, we will see that all is not well.

We need to prepare for the dark clouds on the horizon. We need to accept that even a soft Brexit has downsides for the economy in terms of reduced GDP and employment.

None of that takes into account how the new president in the US will perform.

The incoming president Donald Trump, in many ways, is a total unknown and in other ways we think we know everything about him.

He has no experience in anything resembling an unwieldy structure like the US Government.

He may well have made himself a hostage to fortune by playing up to some of the groups who have given him their support.

Going from a 35% tax to that of 15% may be an expectation too many. Even if it’s only for the first year of his reign, it will spell trouble for our economy.

Couple that with a hard Brexit evolving and uncertainty is the only certainty.

The last thing the Government should do is allow the Public Sector Pay Commission to become just another benchmarking exercise in disguise.

That is particularly so, when there are suddenly more unknown unknowns than there were just yesterday.

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