Tuesday 10 December 2019

Another 5,000 public service jobs set for chop

DANIEL McCONNElL chief Reporter

UP to 5,000 further job losses are to be sought by the Government this year in a new voluntary redundancy scheme, the Sunday Independent has confirmed.

It has also emerged that the paying of length-of-service pay increases, known as increments, could be scrapped or deferred as part of a new Croke Park Agreement.

Senior government sources have revealed that the job losses are to be sought primarily from the administrative divisions of the Health Service Executive and from the Department of Agriculture.

The additional job losses are being sought as part of the Government's bid to reduce further the public pay bill by €1bn by 2015, as announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin before Christmas.

Those targeted for departure include those who considered leaving during the big exodus of staff ahead of last March's pension-cut deadline, but who ultimately determined it would be better to stay on.

Since 2008 when the numbers employed in the public sector totalled 320,000, 33,000 people have since retired, and by the end of 2014 the total numbers employed by the State will be 282,500, but that figure could be reduced further in order to meet demanding troika targets.

According to senior officials, the job losses being sought are separate from the savings being targeted in the new Croke Park deal negotiations which are to commence tomorrow.

Mr Howlin is under fierce pressure from his Fine Gael coalition partners, who have taken a very sceptical view of the Croke Park deal. Mr Kenny has said Mr Howlin has been mandated to extract much deeper 'payroll' savings in the new arrangement, and has "full flexibility" to achieve them.

Mr Kenny said a focus on payroll costs was missing in the first Croke Park deal, but ultimately the Government reserves the right to enact legislation to force the cuts, if unions are unwilling to co-operate.

Mr Kenny said: "I want to see the mandate given to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to result in a new Croke Park deal. We need this in place as quickly as possible.

He added: "Brendan Howlin has been mandated by the Government to get involved now in the production of a new Croke Park arrangement to bring about extra savings of a billion by 2015, with €300m in extra savings next year.

"So, that allows for full flexibility to make those savings and at the end of the day, the Government reserves the right if things are not happening to take legislative action."

With regard to the new pay agreement talks, which are set to begin tomorrow according to senior officials, the job losses being sought are separate from the payroll savings being targeted in the new Croke Park deal.

However, senior government sources have said that increments will be targeted as part of the negotiations.

Mr Howlin appears to have gained a concession from the unions who have publicly conceded that increments may have to be sacrificed to protect core pay. This represents a significant shift in the unions' position from even two months ago.

Tom Geraghty, of the Public Sector Executive Union, warned his members to expect that increments would be on the table, as would allowances, overtime arrangements, expenses and working-time cuts.

Mr Geraghty sits as the head of the umbrella group of public sector unions and his comments are seen as significant.

Sunday Independent

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