Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An alternative to targeting low paid workers is possible

As we approach the end of another year we are facing into one of the toughest budgets in the history of the state. Our public finances are in tatters, 440,000 people are on the dole, more people now live in poverty and those on social welfare find themselves without the Christmas payment. And yet sections of the media, right wing economists and the Government join forces to make public sector workers public enemy number one.

This is wholly unfair and must not be allowed to happen. Workers in the public or private sector are not responsible for the current economic mess. Yet these workers and those who are without jobs are the Governments target as they prepare a savage budget. The Government will claim there is no alterative. This is a lie. Sinn Féin has proven in its pre-budget submission that targeting the low paid and those on social welfare can and should be avoided.

As I type Union leaders are negotiating with the Government ways in which to cut public sector pay. It looks like compulsory unpaid leave is on the cards. This is as unworkable as it is unfair. Many public sector workers earn less then the average industrial wage yet they face the prospect of losing two weeks pay. The Government could cap public sector salaries at €100,000 a year and instantly save €500million but are choosing instead to disproportionatly target the lower paid. It is no surprise that trade union leaders are acquiescing to this but it is still disappointing. There is a fairer way and a more equitable way to approach this budget but it seems the Government are intent on their mission to target the poor and those on low pay.

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