Saturday 18 November 2017

A wasted opportunity for real reform

Many of the savings in the public service would have happened without any Croke Park Agreement, writes Fiona O'Shea

IN THE heady days of the boom, national partnership agreements were designed to achieve industrial peace, co-operation with change and, of course, pay increases for public servants. Every few months, managers would be asked for a progress report on the so-called action plans in the agreements. This could involve reporting on the development of a new website, or increased take-up of electronic services, or movement of staff to a priority area. Then it was forgotten about until the next report deadline came up. This was probably because the agreements were not in themselves the force behind change. They merely cobbled together plans that were already under way in most public sector organisations.

Croke Park is the latest in a long line of national partnership agreements, though with a twist. Instead of pay increases, the price being paid by government for co-operation with change is a commitment not to reduce public service pay. The nature of the agreement is just the same as the earlier ones though. It is essentially a list of items that offices across the public sector commit to doing, many of which they had planned to do anyway. Look at some of the successes claimed in the recent implementation group report:

•Overtime costs were reduced by €6.3m. It is a fair bet that overtime was going to be cut anyway.

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