Allowances 'part of core pay'


In a large swathe of cases, public service allowances are part of “core pay,” Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin insisted today.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr Howlin said there was a lack of understanding about what his Department had achieved in reforming the public service.

Mr Howlin admitted last week only €3.5 million of the target of €75 million in cuts to public service allowances had been achieved and that only one allowance out of the total of 1,100 had been abolished.

“I was given a job to totally reform the public service. To have a completely new way of looking at how we pay public servants, how we structure the public service, to break down barriers and deliver services in a reformed way."

“We’ve done more in terms of reform in the past 18 months than we have in the last 20 years. We’ve halved sick pay, reformed annual leave and overtime and set about a different way of procuring €9 billion for the public service. That’s what reform is. There are some crude comments that somehow suggest cutting pay is the only thing that amounts to reform,” he said.

People were “getting fixated on a tree” while he was “trying to control a forest”, he said.

“We are going to do more than exceed the budget targets this year. We’ve cut the public service pay bill by 2.1 thousand million euro," he added.

Mr Howlin said that while he wanted to deliver public services in an integrated way he also wanted to ensure people “retained a reasonable standard of pay" within the public service.

“If we removed the allowances for gardaí it would have reduced their core pay by 20 per cent. We need to integrate allowances to core pay – it’s under way in education and defence. It’s a complex and overlapping issue."

Asked whether he was storing up trouble by giving new entrants to the public service different terms and conditions to existing staff, Mr Howlin said there was no area of the private sector that was not reforming its entry grade. "We need to look at how we deliver services to see how we can do it in a much more cost effective way," he said.

However, he acknowledged there would not be "revolutionary reform" in the short term.

Earlier, the head of the Irish trade union movement has admitted the public sector allowance system is outdated.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary David Begg said public sector pay scales need to be addressed to update the system. He warned pay structures should be refashioned in a more logical and sensible way.

“That’s a matter for the employers and the unions and public service to do over a period of time,” said Mr Begg.

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