Irish News

Friday 11 July 2014

Bonuses on the way back for more public servants

Published 31/12/2013|02:30

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Brian Hayes: staff need to be rewarded
Brian Hayes: staff need to be rewarded

THE Government is considering radical plans to introduce bonuses for high-performing civil and public servants.

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The proposals would see workers, including teachers and nurses, paid more than their colleagues if they are deemed to be delivering better results.

A plan for future public sector reform, due to be published in the new year, is expected to propose a new system of performance management to include extra pay.

Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes told the Irish Independent that workers in the public sector needed to be "rewarded" if they were found to be making a "huge difference".

The Fine Gael minister indicated that such plans would see some workers paid more than their colleagues on the same grade.

Bonuses were a feature in the pay of some senior civil servants and public sector workers, especially in the Celtic Tiger era.

Dr Michael Somers, the then-chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency, was given a €200,000 bonus in 2009 and almost 100 extra payments were made to officials within the Department of Finance that year.

But under the new plan, bonuses would be extended to ordinary workers such as teachers and health workers for the first time.

"I see people around me, doing extraordinary working days, totally committed to the task of rebuilding the country, and yet they are on the same pay as people who aren't putting in the same effort, quite frankly," said Mr Hayes.

"I think the next phase of public sector reform needs to be built around customer engagement, client engagement, and really rewarding those people in the public sector who have seen their salaries hacked away over the last number of years," he added.

The proposals could see workers paid more than their colleagues if they are found to be performing to a higher standard.

However, such a proposal is not included in the Haddington Road Agreement and would require further negotiations with the unions.

While refusing to pre-empt what will Continued on Page 14

be included in the new two-year plan for public sector reform, Mr Hayes indicated that it is likely to involve a new system of performance management.

He ruled out a significant influx of new workers to the public sector but said an exception could be made for young people. "We don't need to see a massive increase in public sector numbers quite frankly, but what we need is to keep the frontline in place," he said.

The minister said he would like to see more young people recruited and some of the practices of the private sector in rewarding good workers adopted in the public sector.

"But if there is one thing I'd like to see it is an influx of young people coming in right across the public sector, and if they come in on less pay than those exiting the public sector, well then there's an opportunity for some recruitment, but the key thing is we need better performance management and really, as the private sector does, marking out the people who make a huge difference."

Performance management schemes in the public service have been sharply criticised in the past amid concerns they do not properly assess the work completed by civil servants.

Earlier this month it emerged that the majority of civil servants were ranked as "exceeding the required standard" in 2012, with fewer than 1pc of employees assessed as "needing improvement" or producing "unacceptable" performances.

The internal review by the Department of Public Expenditure acknowledged problems in the system, saying the process was perceived as a "form-filling exercise, too cumbersome and lacking in fairness and consistency".

INCREMENTS

The system is used to determine if civil servants should receive increments. Bonus payments for most civil servants were abolished in 2010.

Fianna Fail, however, questioned the proposal last night, accusing Fine Gael of "elect- ioneering".

The party's Public Expenditure and Reform spokesperson, Sean Fleming, said that there was no such provision under the Haddington Road Agreement.

"This is quite clearly an attempt by Mr Hayes and Fine Gael to win votes ahead of the local elections. It's nothing short of electioneering and smacks of Fine Gael talk.

"I wouldn't believe it for one moment," he told the Irish Independent.

"They would need an independent system in place and I can't see public sector workers accepting a situation where they are assessed by their peers in terms of performance."

The proposals for bonuses in the public sector come as the head of the Labour Relations Commission warned that demands for wage increases in the private sector will threaten the economic recovery.

Kieran Mulvey said that workers would use the improving economic conditions to seek pay increases.

Thousands of workers in the retail sector have already been delivered a pay increase following negotiations by their unions. Mr Mulvey told 'RTE News' that he believed "centralised negotiations" needed to begin on the issue of pay in the private sector.

By Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

Irish Independent

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