Friday 6 December 2019

Top civil servant would 'welcome debate on making it easier to fire public sector workers'

Lise Hand in Glenties

The top civil servant in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) has said that he would welcome a debate on making it easier to dismiss public sector workers.

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on the subject of improving accountability in the civil service, the Secretary General of DPER, Robert Watt said that it should be remembered “that employment law applies equally to the public and private sectors” and that while there is scope to sack people in the public sector, there is more financial freedom in the private sector to negotiate confidential severance packages.

“ Let’s be frank - in the private sector senior people can be compensated for agreeing to leave with full assurance of confidentiality which protects everyone’s reputation – the organisation’s and the individual’s,” he said, “in effect, writing a cheque to move somebody out”.

Watt added, “Financial transparency and financial constraints exist in the Civil Service which makes this approach impossible. I would welcome an open debate as the extent to which there would be support to adopt similar approaches in the public sector”.

Watt told the audience that the civil service “needs a new chapter and it needs to be more

effective, more responsive and higher performing, and this must be clearly evident to the public”.

However he said that despite this, “the number of people who consistently underperform is a low proportion of the workforce but underperformance at any level should not be tolerated”.

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