Belfast Telegraph

Now Sammy's seeing red over union job-loss claims

By Liam Clarke

Does Peter Bunting, of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU), ever remember Red Sammy and smile?

That was the nickname given to Sammy Wilson, our Finance Minister, back in the 1980s, when he represented the Left wing of the DUP and was as radical on social issues as he was firm in his defence of the Union.

Nowadays, Wilson and his party colleague, Simon Hamilton, have led the charge against union predictions that 25,992 public sector jobs could be lost by 2017.

That is just 100 more than the Executive hopes to promote, according to the Programme for Government (PfG), and would make us the worst-affected region of the UK.

Hamilton calls this "scaremongering", while Wilson wishes the unions would shut up.

There is no doubt the unions are not understating their case, just as the PfG doesn't minimise the potential for job-creation, but ICTU's calculations are based on official figures.

It is easier to shed jobs than create new ones, especially ones that pay as well as the public service. Getting the balance wrong would reduce spending power and hurt local business.

It would also cause hardship and discontent in DUP target constituencies like East Belfast and North Down.

That is Red Sam's big challenge.

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