Thursday 5 December 2019

No more 'jobs for life' in public service, warns Government

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE Government is planning to bring in compulsory redundancies in the public sector as part of the new Croke Park deal.

Marking an end to the concept of a job for life in the public service, it will be the first time the threat of non-voluntary redundancy will be available.

The compulsory redundancies will mainly be used in cases of surplus staff where the position is actually gone.

In particular, workers who resist and are unsuitable for redeployment and won't take voluntary redundancy will be targeted.

At the moment, workers whose jobs are eliminated can refuse to move to another post in the public service. They can also refuse to take voluntary redundancy.

Increments will also be on the table in the new round of talks to start between government officials and unions today.

The compulsory redundancies are only expected to apply to a few hundred workers over the next few years.

However, it will mark a significant change in the public sector.

The move to bring in compulsory redundancy comes as the Government plans to downgrade some services and close a range of quangos.

The Government is already planning to bring in a new round of voluntary redundancies targeted at surplus staff.

But senior government sources say there will also be the provision for compulsory redundancies in the new agreement.

"There will have to be some exit management strategy for people who need to go. That will be part of this," the source said.

"Most private companies are carrying baggage as well. We have 300,000 people working in the public sector. There is going to be some.

"If you are operating a frontline service, it is very hard to find areas you can put non-performers."

Under a new voluntary redundancy scheme, every line department has been told to identify areas where there is surplus staff who can be offered a voluntary redundancy package or be redeployed.

The first offering will be 2,500 redundancies within the public service, with 1,500 in the HSE alone, who are viewed as "surplus to need".

Government sources say the "forced exit mechanisms" will be put on the table at the negotiations.

"You're going to have capacity where you have the mechanism to make someone compulsorily redundant," a source said.

"You don't have that facility at the moment. Most people when told there is no job for them seek voluntary redundancy if they are not going to move elsewhere."

The Government is aiming to save an additional €1bn from the new Croke Park deal, including €300m this year.

The payment of controversial increments will also be put on the table by the Coalition, meaning a possible pay freeze for staff.

Changes to work practices will also be negotiated, including: shifts between 8am to 8pm being treated as the normal working week; no premium rate just for working after 5pm; Saturday work as part of the norm and scrapping some premium pay rates.


Improved performance assessments for workers will also be introduced to ensure promotions are granted to those who deserve them most.

Meanwhile, writing in today's Irish Independent, Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin said negotiating further savings and reform was "one of the most important challenges facing the Government and the country".

"The prize though is clear – a further move away from the current troika funding arrangements," he said.

Mr Howlin said the Croke Park Agreement had proven to be "the best enabler of reform in the public service since the State was founded".

"There are changes taking place now in the public service, including to such basic items as sick and annual leave, which were never deliverable before the agreement and would be inconceivable in its absence.

"And although it is often taken for granted, industrial peace has been maintained thereby contributing to the sense of stability that is allowing Ireland reclaim its international standing."

He said he believes public servants would also prefer a negotiated solution, rather than the uncertainty that a breakdown in industrial peace in the public service would bring.

"Their pragmatic approach and their delivery of comprehensive industrial peace across the public service since 2010 have made a significant contribution to the improvement in this country's fortunes."

Irish Independent

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