Union to fight for compensation if FAS staff lose perk of 70 days off
A UNION representing Fas staff will seek compensation if the failed agency axes a perk allowing them up to 70 days off a year.
SIPTU has asked the Labour Court to intervene after management tried to get rid of leave of up to 44 days a year, given to them for two successive years before they retire to prepare for their departure.
The Irish Independent yesterday revealed that the training agency was unsuccessful when it tried to get rid of the entitlement, which is on top of their annual leave of roughly 26 days.
However, there is no similar scheme across the public sector.
Political pressure mounted on the Government to reform work practices at the failed training agency after the dispute was revealed.
FAS last night admitted the pre-retirement policy was "not appropriate".
It said there were 105 staff enjoying the entitlement at the moment out of the workforce of 1,900, but this figure would come down to 48 by 2012.
It said the practice was not "an absolute right" as it was at the discretion of management.
The agency said it made two separate offers to the union to eliminate the leave.
FAS said it withdrew the leave last May because talks on axing it were not concluded within a deadline set by the Labour Court. But the leave was reinstated following further discussions.
SIPTU now wants FAS to buy out the leave with a flat-rate payment or by giving time off in lieu. It has rejected an offer of one day off a year per staff member for the next three years.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday said he was disappointed the leave days had not been axed.
"When unions try to defend those sort of privileges, they do public servants a lot of harm," he told Today FM's 'The Last Word'.
And he warned of further pay cuts if the Croke Park deal does not deliver savings.
Meanwhile, a Labour deputy branded the time off to ease into retirement "unsustainable" when thousands of workers were on the dole and thousands of others were on three-day weeks.
Gerald Nash said the revelations highlighted the "urgent need for reform" and said the agency it inherited from Fianna Fail was "not fit for purpose".
He said the issue could lead to "anomalous" situations where in the new Solas organisation, former FAS workers would have one leave entitlement while other public servants might be on less generous terms, "leading to chaos".
However, SIPTU denied the issue could affect the redeployment of staff to the Department of Social Protection or Fas's replacement, Solas.
Mr O'Brien said the union expected its members would transfer "in accordance with the timetable outlined by the Government".
Those with over 25 years' service get the maximum pre-retirement leave of 44 days off but those with lesser service get lower levels of leave.
SIPTU admitted the generous leave entitlement belonged to another era, but said staff deserved a better deal than what the agency had put on the table. "It was agreed in different times," said SIPTU industrial organiser Brendan O'Brien.
"We've been in conciliation and are on the way to the Labour Court to seek a fair outcome for all the people concerned. We're saying if it's going to make an offer, if a worker's benefit is going to be taken away, we're looking for a reasonable offer on that."
He said the reason the dispute had not been resolved was because FAS management breached industrial relations procedures by attempting to get rid of the leave without negotiation. He said the Labour Court had accepted this.
A date for the Labour Court hearing has not yet been set.