Public workers must raise game to avoid future cuts
PUBLIC sector workers have been warned that their pay will only continue to be safe from cuts if they quickly deliver better public services.
The new four-year plan protects their wages and pensions -- but it warns that these guarantees hinge on them achieving major reforms promised under the Croke Park deal.
It upholds the agreement between the Government and its employees, brokered last March, because it does not mean compulsory redundancies or salary reductions.
But staff must co-operate with the plan's biggest reform -- a smaller public service.
It aims to cut the workforce by over 24,750 by 2014.
This measure will produce the biggest saving under the plan's target to slash the €19bn payroll by €1.2bn by 2014.
It does not infringe on the Croke Park deal because it will be achieved by not replacing staff who retire, with only rare exceptions made for essential staff, including teachers.
Likewise, the other chief public sector reforms in the plan do not breach the terms of the Croke Park Agreement because they hit pensioners and recruits rather than existing staff.
The four-year plan accepts public servants have suffered two pay reductions and a wage freeze, but says there is scope for further savings through a number of reductions.
It warns this approach would only be taken if public servants deliver on their side of the Croke Park deal.
Under the Croke Park deal, savings achieved are not just destined for the Government.
Public servants are entitled to payments from the savings to compensate them for previous reductions in their wages due to a pension levy and pay cut.
The new plan repeats many of the reforms in the agreement.
It says staff must work harder, will be redeployed to areas of priority, and there will be cuts in overtime, allowances and special payments.
The plan insists these reforms will enhance the country's competitiveness and deliver better services to citizens.
However, a recent investigation by the Irish Independent revealed that there had been little progress on key elements of the deal that was brokered last March.
The most significant public sector saving under the plan is the reduction in numbers, which aims to bring the workforce down by 24,750 to 294,700.
Roughly 12,000 of this reduction has already been achieved, mainly due to an embargo on recruitment since March last year, while more than 3,000 have applied to go under voluntary HSE exit schemes.
Commenting on the proposals, SIPTU's Jack O'Connor said he did not believe the Government was going to renege on the Croke Park deal because it would only be in office for another few months.
FG's Leo Varadkar welcomed the fact that the agreement had not been abandoned, but criticised its "lack of progress".