Saturday, July 07, 2012

PS I LoveYou (Not)!!

The arguments in Brian Lucey's article today in the Cork Examiner in defence of Croke Park today are baseless, and reveal a core relativism and lack of substance in the Social Partners insistence on no job cuts.

In the first instance, if the state did not promise no job cuts, and insisted upon involuntary redundancies, even at a low scale, none of the social partners could have gone back to their members and say 'we got a deal'. The deal would not have been done - it was tight anyway - and we'd have been straight into bitter wrangling, strikes, and industrial unrest in the public service. That binary, blackmail view - give us what we want or we strike - is an emphatic rejection of the core social ethos of public service. It is now no more than a job, and we'll walk out if we think it's necessary (and then say it's about patient welfare, or preserving efficiencies, not about the size of the TV or the year on the reg plate). Even if we were to accept that striking in a time of economic crisis was a permissible option for the public service, which seems wholly deplorable, no such option exists for the substantially non-unionised private service. This situation exists largely due to government policy through years of dilution of labour laws and shifts in position to accommodate FDI.

Lucey argues that wages were cut in the public sector while in the private sector that substantially this has not been the case. This is simply not true. Why is no one in the public sector calling for another benchmark report? Will we go over that old ground again? Taxes have risen massively (same as in the public sector), increments have either disappeared or been massively reduced, starting wages have reduced and wage bands have narrowed. But that's not even the argument - unemployment stands at almost 15%, which is entirely due to private sector redundancies.

A significant amount of the unemployed are from the construction sector. In the public sector, numbers in planning, tax, and related construction services bloated in response to the massive funds flowing from construction. In response to the evaporation of that business, what happened in the private sector? Massive redundancies. What happened in the public sector? Massive redeployment. To where?! How could such action be justified? In the UK and in the US, there are massive redundancies in the public sector as a result of economic pressure. Not so here. These people are being moved from one position where they may have had a skill into new positions where many of them are likely to be deadweight, and possibly even compromising productivity as a result!

And as for the fallacy of conjugation, he's just making that up. Bertie Ahern was famous for answering a difficult question with the answer to a question he preferred - Prof Lucey appears to be crafting the question as well! No one argues we're borrowing to pay the wages of civil servants, but simply that we're spending too much - generally. And that we need to reduce our borrowing.

He argues that headcount has been reduced by 10% in the public sector - this is exclusively made up of people now on Public Service pensions, collecting from the state and contributing zero to productivity - oh, except for those hired back as overpaid contractors who don't come into the headcount numbers because they're an 'expense'.

But he gets to the point right at the end, and this I agree with. The public service is made up of 300,000 consumers, and they need to continue spending. That may be more at the heart of Croke Park than anything; the public service is a crucial element of the economy.

But all of us contribute to the state coffers, we pay taxes in order that the State run our affairs effectively and as efficiently as possible. The public sector remains sized for an economy almost twice the size of our economy today - we can't afford that any more. Croke Park - and unfortunately jobs - will have to go.

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