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The flaccid, complacent character of the Siptu press conference on Mar 14 advocating support for the proposals set out in the proposed public sector agreement would imply that enthusiasm among trade union members is not broadly based and that, where it exists, support for pay cuts and longer working hours is somewhat less than galeforce in its intensity.
The dialogue that the authorities have engaged in with public sector trade unions does not take into consideration that there are substantial numbers of public sector workers and retirees who are not members of a trade union.
Their perspective is not reflected in the ambivalent architecture of these proposals. They cannot, therefore, be construed as being parties to far-reaching changes inflicted on them which would undermine the fundamental terms of long-standing employment contracts and vested property rights in pension that they have contributed to personally.
Attendance does not equate to reform. It is amazing, in the light of a decade of adverse experience with health services reform, that the latest proposals should be predicated on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ public sector that is based primarily on the concept of ‘attendance’.
There is not a single tangible reference in these proposals, even for illustrative purposes, to any facet of the public sector that is currently effective in the execution of its mandate or a role model worthy of emulation.
The definition of ‘excellence’ therefore remains opaque and elusive.
The Government has already advised that it intends to proceed unilaterally with its proposals. But will the consequences of ‘one-size-fits-all’ reform by legislation be a rigid, inflexible Soviet-style public sector defined by what it cannot achieve rather than what it can accomplish?
Will the entire public sector become characterised by inertia, indifference, passivity, inefficiency — devoid of the motivation, essential goodwill and creative dynamism that legislation is incapable of nurturing?
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