Additional hours sought under pay talk proposals

Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 00:00

Thousand of staff across the public service would have to work additional hours per week under proposals put forward tonight by the Labour Relations Commission as part of talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement.

The proposals set down that there would be minimum of 37 hours which staff would have to work and a maximum of 39 hours.

Staff currently working 35 hours per week or less would move to a 37 hour week net of all breaks. Those currently working more than 35 hours would move to 39 hours net of breaks.

There would be no change in the working week for staff currently working 39 hours. However if employees in this category worked overtime, one hour of this would be provided free of charge.

The Labour Relations Commission has suggested that public service management should put forward proposals to allow staff who wanted to remain on their existing hours to do so for a period. However they would face a reduction in pay.

“The actual implementation of these proposals will require detailed consultation at workplace level in order to maximise the capacity to accommodate issues for affected individuals.”

The Labour Relations Commission proposal also stated that in the case of teachers the proposed elimination of supervision and substitution payments would “allow for additional arrangements for various absences and will provide a further two hours and fifteen minutes in the context of these changes”.

“ The Commission will engage over the next twenty four hours with the parties in third level education to finalise an appropriate proposition analogous to the proposition above for teachers.”

Informed sources said that the Labour Relations Commission document as a set of proposals for the Government and trade unions to consider. The document does not represent an agreement.

Talks between Government representatives and public service unions have now adjourned and will resume in the morning.

One of the main issues to be considered will be proposals by the Government to cut pay for higher earners. The threshold for the pay cut is expected to be in the region of €60,000 - €70,000.

The document presented this evening is the first set of proposals drawn up by the Labour Relations Commission in the current talks process.

The Government has repeated its call for a freeze in incremental pay increases for staff across the public service. Union sources said management had not changed its position on increments. Unions are opposed to the move.

IMO

Meanwhile, revelations that the Department of Health is to seek a pay review for the head of the HSE while the Government is seeking pay cuts elsewhere is a slight on public service workers, the Irish Medical Organisation has said.

Its director of industrial relations Steve Tweed said the reports today of the forthcoming pay review it was not helpful as talks continued on Government plans to cut its paybill by €300 million this year.

"When our members are being asked to make significant sacrifices on their salaries, significant sacrifice to their standards of living and a significant sacrifice on their hours if work, while at the same time the chief executive -designate of the HSE is on a salary of €198,000, and the Department of Health sees the need to increase that, it is unfortunate to say the least," Mr Tweed said.

The Irish Times has learned the Department of Health is to seek a review of the pay for the head of the Health Service Executive, Tony O’Brien.

The department said a review of the salary of the new HSE director general would be made after health governance legislation was passed. It said this review would be subject to any agreements made at the current pay talks.

Highly placed sources said it was expected the Department of Health would seek an increase in salary as part of this review. Any salary increase would require the approval of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Mr Tweed said under Government proposals for a new Croke Park agreement, doctors could be hit simultaneously by a number of measures such as additional working hours, a pay cut and a reduction in premium rates.

He described proposals for additional hours and premium pay cuts as unacceptable. Mr Tweed said he was not ruling anything out in relation to the current talks.

He said the IMO had made it clear to the Government that any increase in working hours above the current 39 hours which the majority of doctors worked would be unacceptable.

He said his members had already suffered significant reductions in pay over recent years and any further cuts would be difficult for doctors to accept.

Mr Tweed confirmed the Government appeared to be moving away from its initial demand for a 5 hour increase in the working week for all staff. However he signalled it was still seeking this increase for some groups.

University lecturers

Separately, the union representing university lecturers is to consider whether it will continue to participate in the talks on a new Croke Park agreement.

The executive of the Irish Federation of University Teachers this morning instructed its general secretary Mike Jennings to convene an emergency meeting of the body if and when the Department of Education confirmed the extent and amount if pay cuts being proposed as part of the current process.

Mr Jennings said the executive of the union would then consider further participation in the talks.

The talks on changes to the pay and conditions of about 300,000 staff across the public service are expected to centre on the controversial issue of premium payments for gardaí, nurses and other frontline personnel.

The Government has proposed reducing premium payments made for Sunday work from double time to time and a half. It also wants to abolish Saturday premium payments as well as those paid for working “twilight” shifts in the evening time.

Organisations representing nurses, gardaí, prison officers, paramedics and fire service staff have strongly opposed the proposed cuts and argue that the moves would disproportionately affect them.

The Government is seeking to generate savings of €170 million on premium payments for public service staff.

Bonus

Separately, official documents show the department wanted permission to be able to offer bonus payments to chief executives of new hospital groups, which are expected to be announced by the Government next week.

The secretary general of the department, Ambrose McLoughlin, told the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform: “I would be keen to explore with you the feasibility of offering a more flexible package in order to attract the right candidate, eg a base salary but with higher on-target earnings associated directly with improved performance in finance and/or operations.”

The Department of Public Expenditure opposed the proposal.

GRA

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter launched a strongly worded attack on the leadership of the Garda Representative Association.

He suggesting it was leading industrial action, which is an offence before the law for any Garda member.

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