Sunday 19 November 2017

Public sector jobs on line despite €531m in savings

Michael Brennan and Paul Melia

THE Government yesterday refused to rule out further pay cuts for public servants in the forthcoming Budget -- despite workers hitting the savings targets in the Croke Park deal.

A new report published yesterday said that €298m had been cut from the public sector pay bill, and another €308m clawed back in reforms, but further savings were needed to help meet the terms of the deal.

And the first progress report also shows that the public sector pension bill has increased by €385m over the past two years -- an increase of 14.3pc.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin last night said the Government would set new targets for more savings on top of the €531m delivered by the Croke Park agreement over the 12 months up to last March.

This will include up to 25,000 further job cuts over the next four years, the sharing of administrative staff and the scrapping of more quangos.

But he warned that unless the savings needed under the IMF-EU bailout were achieved, more pay cuts could be on the cards.

"If we don't get the savings voluntarily, then we have to resort again to pay cuts. That issue is the bottom of the Government's agenda, it's a place we don't want to go to. But we have to have the savings," he said.

The Croke Park pay and reform deal was thrashed out in March of last year after weeks of intense negotiations.

It promised not to hit state employees with any more pay cuts until 2014 if extensive reforms in work practices were implemented, which would lead to savings of €1.2bn.

The first report on its implementation said it was on track, but pointed to a €385m rise in the public sector pension bill over the past two years.

Most of the savings were generated by the drop in the number of staff employed in the public sector, as well as reduction in overtime.

Among the areas where more needs to be done are:

Working Hours

There is still no standardised working week across the public service, and extra working hours in universities have not been delivered. Garda rosters need to be reformed, and there is a need to cut allowances to members of the Defence Forces.

Major changes to rosters, staffing levels and work practices are needed, particularly in the health sector, where introduction of extended working hours including a seven-day working week and 8am-to- 8pm working day must be implemented.

Better Public Services

More services, such as applying for third-level grants, should be available online.

Some functions, such as pay and pensions and human resources, will have to be merged among departments.

There is a need for more civilians to be employed in the Garda Siochana, Prison Service and Defence Forces, along with a "radical restructuring" of local government.


Most of the staff redeployed under the Croke Park Agreement have gone from the health service to the Department of Social Protection.

Some 1,000 community welfare service staff have moved from the HSE to the department, with another 507 coming from other government departments. There will be a need for "significant redeployment" across all departments.

Staff Reductions

Some 5,349 people have left the public service, the bulk of which came from the health sector (4,180). This led to a cut in €289.2m from the payroll bill, but the State still spent €15.712bn paying 303,457 public servants last year.

Management numbers have also fallen, down 7.4pc, but there has been an increase in front-line health staff.

Another €85.7m of expenditure was avoided because of more efficient practices.

Between 22,000 and 25,000 more jobs will go by 2015.

Other savings

A total of €308m was saved last year by cutting travel expenses, selling assets and closing public offices.

Better prices for supplies such as stationary and office supplies saved €39m, while local authorities cut €81m from their day-to-day spending.

The HSE saved a total of €126m, including €18.5m on medical and surgical supplies and €7.5m on catering. Overtime payments are down by 5.2pc overall -- saving €6.3m -- while sick leave has fallen by 13pc in the Department of Education.

Irish Independent

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