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5,000 plan to quit public sector in next three months

A MASS exodus of public sector workers is expected to top 5,000 before next February.

Public and civil servants have the option to retire before the deadline of February 29, 2012, to retain their pension and tax-free lump sum based on their 2009 salary.

Teachers, gardai, judges and administration officials are all expected to take up the lucrative deal.

This calculation is based on the Croke Park Agreement extension before the Government reduced public sector pay.

The Government has pledged to slash 23,500 public service jobs and redeploy thousands others in a new attempt at reform.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said this would be achieved without any compulsory redundancies.

Public sector numbers are projected to fall from a peak of 320,000 in 2008 to below 300,000 at the end of this year and then to 282,500 in 2015.

Though the reduction in staff numbers will largely be achieved through natural wastage, the plan also provides for "effective exit arrangements" such as early retirement or voluntary redundancy.

The news came as it was revealed that Department of Education secretary general Brigid McManus would receive an annual pension of €114,000.

Ms McManus also receives an after-tax lump sum payment of €204,000 on retirement next February, aged 53.

And schools are bracing themselves for a widespread departure of teachers before February next year, 12 weeks before the State exams start.

Sources at the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland earlier told the Herald that teachers were "weighing up their options" because of the deadline. "We do expect a lot of people to take up retirement," they said.

Meanwhile, it was outlined that public servants will be compensated for their loss of holiday days after the Government introduces a 32-day cap on their annual leave.

Some workers in the sector receive more than 40 holiday days a year.

The Government says it will also rationalise and merged 48 quangos by the end of 2012 and will be reviewing the position of a further 46 by next June, saving an estimated €20m a year.

The Government has also decided to cancel the decentralisation programme introduced by its predecessor in 2003.

MrHowlin said he would not pretend that the reform agenda would not cause problems, but that his department would deal with issues as they arose.