Monday 19 March 2018

Privilege leave a throwback to colonialism

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

PRIVILEGE days originated from the British civil service -- which gave civil servants an extra day off to mark the 'King's Birthday' and another day off to mark 'Empire Day'.

But when the Irish Free State was established in 1922, most of the civil service stayed on and became the new Irish civil service. It was agreed to give them two privilege days -- one to be taken at Easter and the other to be taken at Christmas. This comes on top of their normal annual leave, which ranges from 20 days to 31 days.

But when the Department of Finance tried to take privilege days off senior civil servants with the longest leave of 30-31 days -- and reduce them for others -- it met resistance from their unions. The civil service arbitration board welcomed the fact that no union had argued for the retention of privilege days.

"The concept is archaic and inappropriate to our system of government," it said.

Unions representing civil servants agreed.

But they still effectively argued for keeping privilege days under a different name -- by incorporating them into the annual leave of their members.

Unless the Department of Finance can reach a new agreement, civil service staff will continue to get two privilege days on top of their normal annual leave.

The British civil service no longer celebrates 'Empire Day' -- it was rebranded as 'Commonwealth Day' in 1958 after the decline of the British Empire.

Irish Independent

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