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Wednesday 26 April 2017

Retirements force Howlin to fast-track hiring of vital staff

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

Public Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has been forced to fast-track the recruitment of hundreds of 'critical' staff to cope with the impact of retirements from the public sector this week.

Government departments are anxious to speed up the process of signing off on exceptional posts to fill gaps in frontline services and key policy areas.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and other departments that can sanction jobs have received requests for exceptions to be made to an ongoing ban on hiring to fill more than 700 vacancies.

Approval

Last night, the Department of Environment said it had sped up the approval process and handled 215 applications for exceptions to the moratorium on recruitment since the start of the year.

The HSE said it had already got approval for 528 replacement jobs, including midwives and hospital consultants.

The Department of Environment says in its contingency plan: "Where a post is to be filled permanently, all redeployment options must be fully exhausted, before recruitment is sanctioned."

Since the start of the year, a total of 7,464 public servants -- most in health and education -- will have left the public service, by a deadline of today, to avoid cuts to their pensions.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the majority of them would have gone this month, but was unable to say exactly how many were leaving this week.

Mr Howlin has said up to 3,000 staff may be replaced this year, although other avenues to fill vacancies including promotion and redeployment of serving staff must be exhausted first.

The HSE said it got permission for the replacement and backfilling of staff for critical frontline posts. "This continues to be a work in progress," it said.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation said it was surprised at HSE plans, including proposals to make some nurses work shorter but more shifts, rather than three 12-hour shifts a week.

Mr Howlin pointed out that the retirements represent just 3pc of overall public sector numbers. "It would be unduly alarmist to categorise them as a 'wave'," he said.

The Department of Education has developed a plan to allow teachers with exam classes to return to work after retirement to see out the school year.

The civil service plan does not say how many recruits will be sought.

Irish Independent

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