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Ireland — Thousands of public sector jobs at risk

09 November 2009

After having announced that next year's budget, which will be presented on 9 December, will have to include 4 billion Euro of savings due to the dire state of Irish public finances, the government has now become clearer on how this will be achieved, the Irish Examiner reports.

Taoiseach (ancient Irish for Prime Minister) Brian Cowen has indicated that a planned 1.3 billion Euro pay cut in the public sector will be the start of a slimming down exercise of the public sector that could see tens of thousands of jobs lost.

Brian Cowen told Irish broadcaster RTE "We have to get the savings for next year. That’s the imperative in the immediate term and with a budget coming up on December 9, we have to focus on that. But we also have to recognise that the present service as it is being provided is not sustainable long-term."

He was speaking two days after an estimated 90,000 workers, most of whom were thought to be public servants, took to the streets to protest against budgetary policy.

Mr Cowen cited the Defence Forces as an example of how the wider public service could be slimmed down. The Defence Forces have reduced size from 12,000 to just over 10,000, and Mr Cowen insisted their productivity was now "far higher" with a "much better set-up" than previously.

"So numbers is not the gauge of everything," he said. A comparable cut in the wider public service would see tens of thousands of jobs lost.

Mr Cowen said public service reform was ongoing, but admitted: "We’re not getting it done fast enough."
Asked if it was possible to reach agreement with the unions and avoid a winter of discontent, he said: "Those discussions are continuing and I believe that all of us have the common good and the national interest at heart and I hope that the outcome will be positive."

But the secretary general of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, David Begg, warned that if the Government persisted with its planned 4 billion Euro of cuts, it would "run the risk of driving the economy into a prolonged slump" similar to Japan in the 1990s.

Talks between the two sides are ongoing, but in addition to the "day of protest" organised by the unions last Friday, a national strike has been pencilled in for 24 November this year.



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