Tuesday 17 October 2017

Leo Varadkar public sector compulsory redundancy comments infuriate unions

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin speaks to the media following the publication of the
Second Progress Report on the Croke Park Public Service Agreement at Government Buildings yesterday
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin speaks to the media following the publication of the Second Progress Report on the Croke Park Public Service Agreement at Government Buildings yesterday

Independent.ie reporters

COMMENTS by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar that a new Croke Park Agreement should contain a clause that would allow for compulsory redundancies in the public service has infuriated unions.

Public Service Executive Union General Secretary Tom Geraghty rejected the claims as ''mad” and suggested the Minister was confusing getting rid of non-performers in the public sector with compulsory redundancies.

Civil Public and Services Union General Secretary Eoin Ronayne told RTE that talk of compulsory redundancies in the public service is like "a red rag to a bull" for trade unions.

Mr Varadkar made his comments earlier today.

"One thing I think we need to be able to do is [introduce] compulsory redundancies where you close down an agency, for example," he said.

"What we have to do now is everybody gets redeployed. But, say you decide an agency isn't necessary - you're going to close it down - you save a bit, but not what you should be saving because you have to redeploy somebody and potentially redeploy them to a job that they're not appropriate for."

He also said strong performers should have promotional opportunities in any new agreement.

Minister for Expenditure & Reform Brendan Howlin said that as long as Croke Park continued to deliver savings and reforms, there would be no pay cuts or compulsory redundancies.

Meanwhile, a union for more than 13,000 lower-paid public servants will seek pay increases after a new report claimed the Croke Park deal has delivered €1.5bn in savings.

The Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) revealed it will ask the Government to ease the impact of the pension levy and pay cuts on members' wages as savings are ahead of target.

It will invoke a clause in the deal that says state employees earning €35,000 a year or less will get first call if there is any reversal of a pension levy and pay cuts -- which slashed 14pc from wages.

The clause says this can only happen if an annual pay review finds "sufficient savings" have been made.

The move to trigger a pay review by the Government could lead to knock-on claims by unions representing the estimated 80,000 state employees on similar salaries.

UNITE did not rule out a claim but said it would not act until it had consulted with members. The largest public-sector union, IMPACT, gave no indication it would follow suit.

Some senior union officials were dismissive of the move, which they described as "nonsense" given the state the country was in.

Minister Howlin last night indicated that any claims for pay increases were likely to be rejected.

Ambitious

He said the notion of pay rises was "not appropriate" now.

However, CPSU General Secretary Eoin Ronayne said a "deal was a deal".

"Two years on, we're entitled to a review with a view to getting some pay back in the context that any money will be respent, and boost the economy," he said.

The Implementation Body, which oversees the Croke Park agreement, issued its second annual report on progress under the deal yesterday.

Mr Howlin said it was clear the deal "continues to deliver".

However, he said there was a "need to be more ambitious"; while managers had not embraced reform as enthusiastically as he would like.

He also revealed that some state employees had left the public service "rather than embrace change", but refused to say who they were.

IMPACT General Secretary Shay Cody welcomed the savings but warned there was no room for complacency regarding reform.

Employer group IBEC said a significant portion of payroll savings would be offset by the increase in pension costs.

It said the payment of increments and allowances had to be addressed, and sick-leave policies overhauled.

Meanwhile, a total of 70 public servants have been rehired to work in sectors other than health and education this year.

State employees who left before February avoided cuts to their pensions that had hit salaries two years ago.

Mr Howlin said the figures were small compared with the numbers who retired, which was 7,900 in the first three months of the year.

Irish Independent

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