General Secretary of Trade Unions David Begg caused record waves of yawning indifference across the country yesterday as he noted on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme that the public sector allowance system was outdated and needed to be changed, something which would need to be talked about it a meeting. Boringly, Mr Begg said “a discussion was needed” between trade unions and public sector management with a view to reforming the structure of pay to incorporate certain allowances. When tackled on whether this discussion would be largely dull and inconsequential – with many of the individuals present just thinking about their dinner later or making up ways to use phrases such as “instigate change”, “sad indictment” and “copper-fasten” – Mr Begg predictably said he “couldn’t comment on that until a full and frank discussion on the proposed nature of the meeting has taken place”.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has responded by saying that this possible discussion on reform was an attractive idea and that he had already instructed ministers to begin the process of tabling a schedule framework under which a proposed discussion could be examined for feasability which could go before a vast number of boards and other groups to process and review. “I don’t want to jump the gun” said the Minister “but review for this meeting scheduling could be looked at as soon as early December with a look to getting things under way shortly after, depending on a final meeting for timelining which will give us a clear idea on how to go about looking at scheduling the process for a meeting analysis in time for a fresh look on the matter under review”.
“Pending a report” he added.
Mr Howlin said it was not possible to give a timeframe for when public sector pay reform could be achieved, describing it as a “complicated challenge, which would need lots of reviews and reports, some of which will themselves have to be reviewed”.
“Pending a discussion with cabinet ministers” he added.
Unusual and seemingly unnecessary allowances enjoyed by public sector workers have come under the microscope this week as the country gears up for another budget of catastrophic brutality, replete with the now-familiar misery, tears and blaming of problems on Fianna Fáil. Allowances such as courtesy shoe-shines, rave CDs, and pints of chocolate milk are provided to public sector workers for often spurious and cryptic reasons, while many additional payments are made for display of fundamental workplace practices such as the ‘Not Racist award‘, ‘Lunch-On-Time Plus‘ and in some sectors, a bonus for leaving every day and getting home without incident or mishap (WorkALIVE Scheme).