Sunday 17 December 2017

Only one third of targeted staff opt for HSE deal

Shane Hickey

JUST a fraction of the 5,000 staff expected to take up a controversial €400m redundancy scheme at the HSE has agreed to the deal.

New figures which emerged last night show just 1,700 people are prepared to take the package -- far below the 3,000 to 5,000 staff the HSE wanted.

Some 3,800 people applied for the scheme but more than half of these decided not to take up the offer after they got their final quote. The once-off schemes were announced in a bid to get rid of up to 5,000 staff and save €200m a year.

The Department of Finance had set aside a special fund of €400m to finance the voluntary severance and early retirement scheme targeted initially at managerial and administrative staff, and then at support staff like porters and caterers.

Sources had anticipated that 10pc of the 3,775 people who initially applied for the scheme would change their mind during a 'cooling off' period. Instead, more than 50pc have decided against it, with measures in the Budget and the short time frame to make the decision being blamed.

The operation of the scheme was directly criticised last night with Fine Gael's health spokesperson James Reilly saying it had "held a gun to people's heads".

It is expected that the absolute final figure will be known within the next 48 hours. Last night, a spokesperson for the HSE said: "We are currently still working through final offers and severance packages for people".

However, the spokesperson refused to comment on the reasons behind the massive drop in those who had got a quote and those who took up the offer.

Disappointing

She declined to say whether the take-up rate was disappointing for management at the agency.

The departures are part of the Government's four-year recovery plan, which aims to cut the number of public servants by more than 24,750 -- to 294,700 -- by the end of 2014.

Dr Reilly said the take-up figure was "very disappointing".

"Clearly putting a gun to peoples' heads doesn't work," he said.

"It might stimulate people to inquire, but not giving people the sort of time to enquire about such a major life decision doesn't yield the result."

Health minister Mary Harney revealed earlier this month that the applicant number had dropped to just over 3,100 from 3,775.

Dr Reilly said he agreed with the prospect of major redundancies in the HSE, but not with the timeline for the scheme.

"It is unfair to put that sort of pressure on people coming up to Christmas," he said. It is not known how much of the targeted €200m in savings will now be secured.

Under the HSE schemes, senior managers could walk away with payouts of up to €350,000, as well as a generous pension.

An assistant national director on €100,000 with 40 years' service gets an immediate redundancy payment of €200,000, a lump sum of €150,000 on reaching retirement and a pension of nearly €38,000.

The deadline for applications to the scheme has now passed.

Irish Independent

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