Saturday 16 December 2017

Croke Park Agreement shaved €1bn off public service bill last year - report

Lyndsey Telford

THE STATE shaved almost €1bn off its public service bill last year through cuts, a new report has shown.

Staff reductions and redeployment saved €650m in pay in the second year of the Croke Park Agreement between Government and unions, with €370m saved in administration efficiencies.

A total €1.5bn has been knocked off the Government's Exchequer bill over the last two years.

Public expenditure minister Brendan Howlin said the report confirmed the Croke Park Agreement was making an important contribution to Ireland's economic recovery.

"That said, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we continue to face very significant challenges," he said.

"We still have a way to travel in terms of restoring order to the public finances."

He pointed out that the Government was still operating in "a very difficult and uncertain" economic environment.

The report, by the Implementation Body for the Public Service Agreement, said the savings were evidence of the public service doing more with less.

In the two years since the deal was struck between the Government, public servants and unions, thousands of workers had been redeployed.

There was also a mass exodus at the start of the year when more than 7,500 public servants accepted a deal to retire early in a bid to avail of pensions based on pre-pay cut salaries.

Last year, around 1,000 primary and secondary teachers, 4,500 staff in the health sector, 1,000 community welfare service staff and 750 Fas workers were all redeployed.

Meanwhile, new roster arrangements have been put in place for Gardai and health workers to make the most of frontline resources.

SIPTU trade union vice-president Patricia King said the savings made from the agreement could not have been achieved without the flexibility of lower-paid workers in particular.

"Those workers at the lowest pay levels across the public service have contributed substantially to the reforms in work practices to date through roster changes, redeployment, the extended working day and loss of allowances," said Ms King.

"They have also suffered from the loss of regular, rostered over-time which, in the majority of cases, is calculable for pension purposes."

Meanwhile, the union INTO described the Croke Park Agreement as one of the country's few success stories in recent years.

"The agreement shows that despite reduced resources in schools, primary teachers are maintaining services to pupils and parents," general secretary Sheila Nunan said.

"Primary teachers are delivering more with less, one of the key objectives of the agreement.

"They are keeping their part of the agreement and expect the government to honour the agreement in full."

The Croke Park Agreement was a pact between the Government promising no further reductions in workers' pay rates from 2010 to 2014, and no compulsory redundancies.

It has been described as one of the most ambitious plans for public sector reform in the State.

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