ONE of the very worst political dodges inflicted on this country was the promise by Bertie Ahern, when the regional health boards were amalgamated, that no one would lose their job.
This flew in the face of the rationale behind consolidation and left a legacy our health service struggles with to this day. It also encouraged the belief that a State job is for life and, once secured, is almost a personal possession, with permanent property rights attached.
That same, comforting, but impossible principle has been invoked by Fianna Fáil in the debate on our public transport. Their spokesman, Robert Troy, has said the party will block plans to lay off workers at Bus Éireann, where management wants to separate its loss-making Expressway service from the company and introduce lower terms and conditions. Bus Éireann, despite subvention, loses around €500,000 a month. That subvention is probably too low, but is entirely justified, as it supports a social good. However, it cannot be open-ended; it cannot be an ever-increasing blank cheque.
What do Fianna Fáil suggest? Do they want staff who might otherwise become redundant to be kept on the payroll, as they were after the health boards amalgamated? The loss of any job is tragic — as is any pay cut. That, however, does not mean that our public sector cannot try to remake itself — even if it must embrace the realities seen everyday across the rest of society.
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