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Coughlan is 'crazy' if she thinks we'll take more pay cuts - union

A UNION leader has described Tanaiste Mary Coughlan refusal to rule out further public sector pay cuts as "crazy".

Ms Coughlan told the Dail that trying to predict what cost-saving measures would be in next December's Budget was impossible and for that reason she wouldn't be ruling it out.

Her comments yesterday came as public sector workers upped their work-to-rule campaign against the cuts of 5pc and more that were introduced at the start of this month.



Abuse

The opposition accused the Tanaiste of being part of a "vulgar campaign of abuse" against public sector workers.

And head of the Irish Congress of Trade Union Public Services Committee, Peter McLoone, said the Government had to realise that the well was now empty.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore led an attack on the Tanaiste who was in charge of Dail proceedings, while Taoiseach Brian Cowen attending talks on the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Mr Gilmore argued that there had been a "sweetheart deal" that allowed higher-paid civil servants escape the brunt of pay reductions, while the low paid were picking up the slack.

Both Fine Gael and Labour have repeatedly argued that cleaners are taking bigger hits to their pay packets than people who work in the offices they clean.

Ms Coughlan argued that around 600 senior civil servants had avoided direct pay cuts because they lost out on payments of up €17,000 by the scrapping of a bonus payment scheme. It is understood that around 15 Fianna Fail backbenchers are "unhappy" with the deal, but the Tanaiste said that the method was advised by the review body on higher level pay as the bonuses were "indicatively part of their salary".



Vulgar

Mr Gilmore hit back by highlighting the case of one civil servant, Mary Duffy, who spoke at a meeting on Tuesday.

She has seen her pay drop by €77 a week, leaving her with €451 to live off.

"Meanwhile, the Government did a sweetheart deal for some of the more senior officers of Mary's department and other departments -- people who are paid six or seven times what she is paid," said Mr Gilmore.

"Mary Duffy and her colleagues have been subjected for a year or more to a vulgar campaign of abuse, demeaning the work they do and demoralising those that do it."



Gross

Ms Coughlan rejected this theory in the "strongest terms possible".

Peter McLoone noted that more than 250,000 people working in the public service were earning less than €60,000 a year gross, even before the pay cuts and pension levy were introduced.

Unions have warned that an escalation of the so-called national go-slow is still a strong possibility.

The public were impacted by the work-to-rule for the first time yesterday with staff in some parts of the country refusing to answer phones for a time.

kdoyle@herald.ie