Friday 24 February 2017

Prison officers paid overtime for hours not worked

Tomás Heneghan

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Stock picture

Prison officers are being paid almost two weeks wages every year for overtime hours they have not worked in a system introduced to reduce costs in the Irish prison sector, a report has found.

A new report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General on Tuesday showed the level of paid hours not worked, known as ‘write-off hours’ was as high as 15%.

New rules on an annualised hours system, introduced in 2005, aimed to reduce the cost of the Prison Service.

Overtime levels prior to the new system peaked at €59 million annually in 2002 and 2003 and it was hoped the changes would save €31 million each year.

The report notes the savings were “significantly less” than the targeted levels, with the annual reduction coming out at €5.5 million.

Prison officers were also paid once-off lump sum payments which added up to a total bill of €41 million just to adopt the new system.

In total, from 2006 to 2014, approximately €8 million was saved through introducing the new system.

The report notes that a cap on the number of hours an officer can contractually work has ensured a more even distribution of earnings across the sector.

Prison officers work a standard week of 39 rostered hours per week and receive a 1.8 times rate on their basic salary for additional hours.

The number of hours worked by officers has also seen a reduction of 49% in the average number of overtime hours worked.

Since the introduction of the new system in 2005 overtime hours decreased from 459 hours to 222 hours in 2014.

The report said: “Average earnings have not changed significantly in cash terms for individual prison officers since the introduction of the new system. This is despite a significant reduction in the amount of hours in excess of the new system.”

However, it noted: “The main benefit from the introduction of the annualised hours system is that it has provided the Prison Service with a level of certainty around the availability of staff to work additional hours as required by circumstances.”

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