By Vivienne Clarke
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said that the public sector pay agreement will have to be examined when the new government is formed. Commitments had been made to public sector unions over the last three years, he said.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Donohoe said that the contribution of frontline workers had to be acknowledged.
“The very workers we are talking about have been at the frontline in particular in our hospitals and in our gardai in dealing with some of the most difficult consequences of Covid, they have done such a remarkable job in keeping our country safe and when a new government is formed, we’ll need to sit down and look at what is the future of public pay going to be here in our country and look at all of these issues in that context.
“The background to those kind of negotiations has changed, we now have so many hundreds of thousands of our citizens who don’t have jobs, our overwhelming priority will be to help get them back to work.
“Getting our citizens back to work will be the single largest driver of improving where we are with our public finances.”
Mr Donohoe said he believed there will be a gap in the coming years between how much is raised in taxes and what the government spends. “In recent years when we’ve had that gap, it has been because of how we managed our economy. I think in the future we’re going to have to, need to do new things with our public health service to prevent us from the kind of difficulty we’ve had with Covid happening again, we may well have to change how we organise childcare, what we do with our schools.
“They are the kind of issues that we will better understand once we understand how successful we have been in containing this disease. And we are making progress with that.
There will be decisions that will be made in the future. But before we get to any of that our first priority is to make decisions in 2020 and in 2021 on top of what we have already done to get our citizens back to work.”
Later on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland Mr Donohoe said he will be bringing a proposal to Cabinet today to resolve the issue over women on maternity leave being excluded from the Covid-19 Temporary Wage subsidy Scheme.
The Minister added that while he had already indicated the government’s plan to continue the scheme beyond the current expiry date, they will be making the final decision on the duration of the payments “in the coming week or so.”
When asked about matters being discussed as part of government formation talks, Mr Donohoe said the issues included pension issues and income supports, but that the context for all decisions had been changed because of Covid-19
This article was amended at 11:54 on May 29, 2020