Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has pressed the play button in the debate on reversing pay cuts imposed on public sector workers over the last few years.
His premature nod-and-a-wink was such a hostage to fortune that he had to rein in expectations yesterday by declaring that nothing would be possible next year and that any revision would be provided for in Budget 2016.
He, as part of this week’s budget, announced that jobs would be created in the public sector next year. This is wonderful news; services will be protected if not enhanced and jobs will be created. It, however raises real issues, issues that have to be dealt with if we are not to return to the dysfunction and division that did so much harm to this society.
Recent figures suggest that fewer than 1% of public servants have been categorised as poor performers. Anyone with even the slightest grip on reality knows that this is utter bunkum. Mr Howlin must insist that a credible appraisal is carried out and that persistent underperformers are removed from the system before any extra posts are filled. Just like it happens in the real world. He also needs to realise that any pay rises for public sector workers — already far better off than most private sector workers — will provoke similar demands in the private sector and the whole self-destructive merry-go-round will start again.
Surely we’ve at least learned that very hard lesson?
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