Belfast Telegraph

Union boss warns against more cuts

One of the country's top trade unionists has warned that a leading think-tank's calls for increasingly deeper public spending cuts would be the "single worst" thing to do.

Government advisers at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) sparked the backlash after recommending four billion euro savings in Budget 2012 rather than the planned 3.6 billion euro.

Siptu general president Jack O'Connor claimed 20 billion euro savings in the past three years had already had a severe impact on the least well-off.

"These measures have been inflicted on people across our society with appalling consequences for the most vulnerable," he said.

The ESRI's revised strategy lowered growth forecasts, with Gross Domestic Product this year expected to be 1.8%, down from 2%. In its latest quarterly bulletin, the think-tank called for an additional 400 million euro savings through tax hikes and spending cuts and also warned that net job losses this year would hit 45,000.

Mr O'Connor said the advice was incredible coming in the same week the Central Bank revealed 55,000 mortgages were 90 days in arrears - a 26% increase in distressed loans in the last year - and the day after the worst dole statistics on record: 14.4% unemployment and a total of 469,713 signing on.

The Siptu boss claimed the ESRI wanted tougher austerity "beyond even the draconian provisions of the EU/ECB/IMF plan, which had already inflicted so much misery on our citizens".

"Of the limited options available, intensifying austerity at this point would be the single worst thing we could do," he said.

Mr O'Connor claimed there would be no sustainable growth in Ireland unless there was investment.

"The focus now must be on jobs and growth. This is the key to recovery and it is also, incidentally, the key to building confidence in international markets," he said.

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