Eight Fine Gael TDs have challenged the Government’s stance on Croke Park, saying the system of pay rises and allowances for high-earning public servants must be re-examined.In an unprecedented move, the eight have co-authored an article in today’s Irish Examiner raising a number of key questions about the agreement.
The development starkly illustrates the growing doubts among Fine Gael backbenchers as to whether the agreement is delivering, and seems certain to spark further tensions with coalition partners Labour.
The eight TDs are Sean Conlan, Paul Connaughton, Pat Deering, Brendan Griffin, Noel Harrington, Sean Kyne, Anthony Lawlor, and Eoghan Murphy.
Under Croke Park, public servants are guaranteed no further pay cuts and no compulsory redundancies up to 2014, provided they co-operate with reforms to produce savings.
The TDs say while there is a strong argument that lower-paid public servants be protected, incremental pay increases and allowances for higher earners should be revisited.
"Protecting core pay does not mean protecting pay increases and unnecessary allowances for those on higher salaries," they write.
"Every euro saved is a euro better spent on vital frontline public services that benefit us all."
They raise a number of questions about Croke Park:
* Why increments have been "taken off the table altogether" by the Government when they will add at least €170m to the public sector pay bill next year;
* Why there is "hesitation" in "properly tackling" allowances;
* Whether the savings produced by Croke Park are being over-stated;
* Why, apart from the chairman, are there no other independent members of the implementation body overseeing Croke Park.
On increments, the TDs write: "Pay increases in the public sector, for those on higher wages, must be put back on the table if we are serious about correcting the budget deficit, and if we are serious about doing so in a fair way."
On allowances, they say: "Allowances in the public sector are worth €1.5bn. When the Government recently tried to identify savings of only 5% of that figure, it encountered resistance. The reason given was Croke Park... yet neither pay increases nor allowances are a part of the Croke Park Agreement in the first place. They are not mentioned."
The TDs say there is now "a question mark" over the actual savings being realised by Croke Park following a report which indicated that one Government department found the model for calculating non-pay savings to be "excessive".
On RTÉ’s The Week in Politics last night, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, insisted: "The sums are done and the sums add up."