Saturday 24 June 2017

Fears of 'brain drain' of senior civil servants to private firms

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton and Labour’s junior employment minister, Ged Nash, yesterday jointly launched two draft laws aimed at improving industrial relations
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton and Labour’s junior employment minister, Ged Nash, yesterday jointly launched two draft laws aimed at improving industrial relations

Mark O'Regan and John Downing

Politicians who engage in "bashing" senior civil servants should remember many could earn considerably more in the private sector.

And there is now a risk of a serious civil service 'brain drain', the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS) has warned.

Senior public servants are increasingly tempted by high salaries offered by the likes of large multi-national companies operating in Ireland, the Association's annual delegate conference was told yesterday.

Ahead of next week's crucial talks with the Government on pay and public service reform, the union has warned these discussions must not be a matter of "recruitment versus pay restoration".

Ciaran Rohan, general secretary of the AHCPS, also said if reform means "further attacks" on pay and conditions of employment, then there will be no agreement for going forward.

He said members had suffered cuts to their salaries of between 20pc and 23pc.

He said the income of his members had been hit not only by salary reductions, but also by the introduction of the Universal Social Charge, property taxes and water charges.

Mr Rohan welcomed the end of the Government moratorium on filling vacant posts.

"In the short term, that will require more resources in the shape of widespread recruitment; but in the long term, the costs of not taking on staff will be much greater," he said.

"This should not be a matter of recruitment versus pay restoration. Both issues should be addressed."

Ahead of negotiations with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, he said senior public sector workers were "leaders" at what they do.

"We do some of the most complex and challenging jobs in the country. We would earn well in excess of what we currently earn in most of the private sector companies we deal with.

"In the run-up to the general election next year, I've no doubt that certain politicians will be falling over each other in their desire to bash the civil and public service. But the work we do deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated."

Mr Rohan said highly-skilled workers were increasingly tempted by the private sector.

"It is a competitive market out there, particularly when the Government is competing in the marketplace for talent."

He said major multinationals such as Google and Microsoft attracted professionals with salaries and conditions appropriate to their skill set.

"In order to retain people with the right skills, the civil service needs to be resourced in the right way," he told the Irish Independent.

"An independent pay mechanism would support this.

"We're not looking for a pay bonanza - we're just looking for fairness."

The AHCPS represents over 3,000 civil servants and managers in the commercial and non-commercial state sector.

Meanwhile, Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton and Labour's junior employment minister, Ged Nash, yesterday jointly launched two draft laws aimed at improving industrial relations.

The first puts the Low Pay Commission on a formal legal footing, while the second improves collective bargaining rights for workers where employers refuse to engage in talks.

The second bill provides for Labour Court intervention in a case where workers have a grievance but employers will not negotiate. The Labour Court finding can later be enforced via an order of the Circuit Court.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King said it was progressive legislation capable of addressing most of the deficits exposed by a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2007, and of improving union rights in Ireland.

"It provides an avenue for workers, through their trade unions, to secure improvements in pay and conditions, when an employer refuses to engage in collective bargaining," Ms King said.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Also in this section