[Sinn Fein]

2nd July 2002

`Benchmarking awards must be paid' - Ó Caoláin

Sinn Fein Dáil group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today called on the Coalition government to pay the wage elements of the Benchmarking report as quickly as possible and said that any negotiations on the report must be conducted in a positive environment not in the negative one generated by the comments of the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance. He said:

``We cannot have first-class public services if public servants at all levels are not properly paid. If there are to be negotiations then they should focus on the differentials between the increases proposed for different public service grades rather than ability to pay.

``The concern about Benchmarking now is that it may reproduce in the public service the growing and unjustifiable wage differential that exists in the private sector between the ordinary worker and management. Negotiation should focus on this issue of inequality.

``The government must live up to their responsibilities to public sector workers. Whatever the value of benchmarking it should be considered in a wider debate on the social and economic value of those who work in the public services. By delaying payment, the Coalition is sending the wrong message to those workers without whom we would not have been able to build the economic successes of the last decade.

``The Government have yet to make clear what the true state of public finances is. Their pre-election forecasts have been shown to be woefully inaccurate.

``We called for a comprehensive spending review in our manifesto along with a review of the tax regime. If this was done with the social partners involved we could ascertain once and for all, how much money there is, how it is being spent, are we getting value for money from our tax spend and how the next Budget can best focus on social need.''

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