Saturday 18 November 2017

Passport workers were paid double time for time off

Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Staff offered 'incentive' for clearing backlog

A confidential email seen by the Sunday Independent has revealed that staff at the Passport Office were paid overtime for time they did not spend in the office.

The perk was given to staff last weekend in an attempt to clear the backlog of passports built up following recent industrial action.

However, it can now be revealed that some staff were paid double-time for 90 minutes they did not have to work.

"Ah jaysus, that's an internal email. You shouldn't have it," Ray Devine at the Passport Office in Cork said yesterday. Mr Devine gave what he called the "incentive" to staff in the Cork office last weekend.

"I'm not supposed to be giving interviews -- the reason for it is we were trying to catch up on the backlog," he said.

Mr Devine said he could make no further comment.

The incentive to the staff in the Cork passport office was defended by a source in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"The staff in Cork were much more courteous and much more flexible than the staff in Dublin -- that is why the incentive was given," he said.

Staff at the Cork passport office who worked at the Easter weekend were rostered from 8.30am to 3pm. "I am introducing some incentive to staff which might assist staff in leaving earlier than normal," said Mr Devine in the circulated email.

"I have tried to be as fair and balanced for each type of work," he wrote.

If the staff in the Swiftpost section processed 30 applications during the shift, instead of the regulation 25, they were allowed to take the last 90 minutes off and leave early.

Similar incentives were given to counter staff, who checked 38 applications, and also in other areas of the Cork passport office.

Staff at the passport office have been given over-time, including double-time on Easter Sunday, to clear the backlog in passport applications that built-up during the work-to-rule action.

This industrial action led to an outcry of public anger at members of the Civil & Public Services Union who initiated the action.

There are now 65,000 outstanding passport applications in the system -- which is about 25,000 more than normal.

The waiting time for a passport has also doubled from 10 to 20 days because of the work-to-rule.

It was this backlog in the system that Mr Devine was trying to clear up with staff incentives.

Because of the uncertainty of further industrial action, demand for passports is up 22 per cent on last year.

"The work-to-rule created a bottle neck in the system and in this case the inclusion of incentives would be normal," said a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for the passport service.

Sunday Independent

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