Friday 15 December 2017

Fewer perks for civil servant in charge of drive to create jobs

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

THE new secretary general at the Department of Jobs will be the first to lose controversial perks that have boosted senior civil servants' pensions for decades.

But the Government won't reveal whether it will abolish a series of additional payments given on top of their pensions -- or simply cut some of the perks.

However it is expected that a special severance lump sum -- which is worth up to half a year's pay -- will be axed.

Retired Secretary General Sean Gorman's successor will get a 'reformed' version of special terms that have been given to the most senior state employees for over 20 years.

The old terms meant they enjoyed two lump sums and extra years of service to inflate their pensions, which could add hundreds of thousands on to retirement packages.

Mr Gorman left two weeks ago with a package worth an estimated €634,000 under the system, known as Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC) terms.

The Government has promised to reform the system but still appointed four secretaries general on the same bumper terms since coming to power last March.

But the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform indicated yesterday that those days are now over.

It said Mr Gorman's replacement and future secretaries general will get revised terms -- but would not clarify whether the special payment and added years would be abolished or simply amended.

It said no one has yet been appointed Secretary General at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, which closed to applications in September, but confirmed the position will be on "revised" terms.

"This appointment, as all future secretary general appointments, will be on reformed TLAC terms that the minister will announce shortly," said a spokeswoman.


TLAC terms are already being abolished for new recruits from outside the public sector under legislation on a single public sector pension scheme. But this is unlikely to have any impact for years as most of the high-level jobs are filled from within the state sector.

There was outrage when retiring secretary general Dermot McCarthy received an exit package worth €713,000 last July under the TLAC terms.

The Government said it was legally obliged to honour the terms agreed in his contract. It said the terms had been given since 1987 to compensate secretaries general for taking seven-year contracts.

Legislation says it has discretion over the payments at the time of appointment, but it has since taken on four secretaries general on these terms.

They are secretary general Robert Watt at the Department of Public Expenditure, Martin Fraser at the Department of the Taoiseach, Brian Purcell at the Department of Justice and Jim Breslin at the Department of Children.

Meanwhile, 'stay-or-go' workshops and training seminars are being held by unions and state bodies for staff as the number of retirements is expected to increase in the coming months.

The meetings are being held to help them decide whether to retire before a deadline on February 29 when their pensions face cuts, as they will then be based on salaries after pay cuts.

Staff have until the end of this month to make the decision.

The Department of Finance said it was on track to exceed its end-of-year target to reduce the public service workforce to 302,000 and Mr Howlin expects it will end up below 300,000.

A reduction to 294,700 by 2014 was promised in the EU and IMF bailout deal.

Irish Independent

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