Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013




Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this Bill.  As this country continues to spend more than it earns, storing up debt for future generations, we must take on the difficult task of decreasing our expenditure until we achieve the first step along the route to recovery, that of spending within our means and thus I welcome the provisions of the Bill currently before the House.


The Bill aims to reduce the remuneration of public servants earning over €65,000, reduce the pension of former public servants and suspend increments for three years.  I know that reservations have been expressed about reducing the pensions of former public servants, but it must be remembered that for those on €32,500, this will effect a reduction of 2 percent, while for those on pensions of more than €100,000, it will represent a 28 percent contribution.


There are a number of provisions in this Bill that are very welcome and long overdue.  Redeployment measures will be revised, but the guideline redeployment distance will remain at 45 km.  I believe that this is sensible as many families could not cope with the extra costs that redeployment could place on them.  Incidentally, I also believe that an overhaul of the transfer system should be done to identify opportunities to transfer staff where it would benefit both the personnel involved and the service in general. With the Minister keen to reduce public service numbers, I also believe that the Government should give serious consideration to extending the availability of career breaks within the public service to allow those who are in a position and wish to take a career break to do so, freeing up places for newer graduates who are currently finding it very difficult to enter the workforce.


The health service continues to take a large percentage of the country’s income and it is only natural that health and education are two areas that we will continually seek to preserve amid difficult financial circumstances.  While innovative measures have been put in place in an effort to maximise the effectiveness of the resources currently employed, this has placed an increased workload on healthcare staff across all areas.  I welcome the fact that expenditure on agency and locum staff is to be reduced, with directly employed nurses and interns providing the compensatory hours and I also welcome the fact that staff in the health sector who work on Sundays, traditionally a family day and a day of rest, are to be paid at double time for the hours worked.


Another aspect of the provisions of this Bill is the suspension of increments for three years.  Forgoing money that you never had is, in some respects, much easier than having existing income reduced, but many people have borrowed money in the belief that their wages will increase incrementally in years to come and this current suspension for three years will cause hardship to many people.


With many cuts to income made across the board and more to come if our finances are to be brought to order, fairness is key.  People need to see that these cuts are fair and that they apply to all.  I welcome the fact that the Bill provides that public servants affected will include members of the Oireachtas (other than the President) and the judiciary.


The need to ensure that those who have most contribute most must be uppermost in our minds at all times and I believe that this is reflected in this Bill, which does place a significant burden on higher paid public servants, serving and retired and also affects all public servants through the suspension of increments.


The title of the Bill reflects its purpose, these are emergency measures in the public interest, and while they are unpalatable for all affected, they are nevertheless necessary if we are to achieve the savings required to get this country back on track.