PUBLIC servants will get compensation for any loss of earnings they suffer from work-practice changes under the Croke Park deal.
And it is not yet known how much the agreed one-off payments will cost the State.
The Irish Independent has learnt that the deal means the public servants will get a lump sum of 1.5 times what they would have otherwise earned in a normal year if their overtime, allowances or work practices had been left untouched.
A worker who lost €10,000 in annual earnings due to changes in work practices would be entitled to a once-off lump sum of €15,000.
It means the State will face costs for many of the changes it tries to implement to overtime and work-practice arrangements in the public sector.
Last night, the Department of Finance insisted the one-off payment would deliver savings to the wage bill "over time" -- but was unable to say how much the deal would cost the taxpayer.
The decision was made by the Implementation Body which is in charge of getting last year's Croke Park deal between the Government and public sector unions to work.
The body acted in response to the Labour Court's decision to give a 1.5 times' lump sum for loss of earnings to medical laboratory scientists.
The HSE introduced changes to their overtime rates to save €5m a year. But the court ruled they were entitled to compensation lump sums worth 1.5 times their loss of earnings after hearing the changes would cost up to €15,000 a year each.
The minutes of the body's meeting last month record that its members agreed to the 1.5 times' lump-sum compensation formula for the entire public sector. There was no objection from the Department of Finance's representative and there was no detail provided about how much the arrangement would cost.
Public Service Executive Union general secretary Tom Geraghty, who is a member of the Implementation Body, said the lump sums would help staff adjust to loss of earnings.
"Rather than suffering the loss all in one go, they get a bridging payment to help cushion the blow initially. But then they lose it," he said.
Mr Geraghty said the State would be getting substantial long-term savings from changed work practices and that the lump sums were "not that big a deal".
"In industrial relations, the concept of compensating people with once-off payments for loss of regular rostered earnings is well established," he said.
However, ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said the payment of such compensation was not standard practice among the small and medium sized enterprises he represented.
He said there was a totally different attitude in the public sector -- even though the State was borrowing €18bn a year to stay afloat. "You wouldn't be able to do that in a private company -- all the directors would be up in court for trading insolvently," he added.
The Department of Finance said the lump-sum formula was in line with the Labour Court ruling and would help avoid public sector disputes "which could delay the delivery of urgently needed change".
"It is important to remember that the employer would have had to pay this money anyway, and by agreeing to the relevant change, the employer secures changes to practices that will deliver improvements to services to the public immediately and savings to the pay bill over time," it said in a statement.