I am extremely disappointed that the Government appears to have lost out on the opportunity afforded to it when its representatives met the social partners – I believe they are still referred to in this way but the title may now be something of a misnomer – to engage in any real or meaningful discussion, particularly with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The Government’s current line is, “We have to do what we have to do.” Such an approach does not provide a basis for seeking consensus across society in respect of the difficult situation we face and the undoubtedly serious measures that must be taken.
It is simply not good enough that the Government puts out three figures as comprising the €4 billion in savings that need to be made and then announces that this is the way it must be. There will be no consensus in respect of, buy-in to or support across society for this type of dictatorial approach with regard to what is going to happen in the next couple of months. I have appealed to the Leader of the Seanad to do what he can, however minimal that might be, to persuade the Government and the Minister for Finance not to take this kind of approach or attitude towards the former social partners. I also urged the Leader to convince the Minister for Finance to use the opportunity that will present itself in the coming weeks to enter discussions with the trade union movement and put it up to its members to contemplate those areas – be they in the public service or elsewhere – where radical change must occur and invite them to come forward with proposals. I do not know if that is the basis on which the Government wishes to have the discussion on this matter. However, simply announcing a position at this stage will not work.