Croke Park deal used 'as a shield for inactivity'

Fri, Sep 7, 2012, 01:00

PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM:MINISTER for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said there are some who are using the Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform as a shield against their inactivity.

He said managers had to manage, had to propose reform and had to drive reform.

“If they expect reform to happen automatically, that won’t happen and I think we need to ensure that the potential of Croke Park is fully utilised and that means people coming up with imaginative ways of ensuring the same level of public service, if not a better level of public service is achieved at lower cost,” he said.

“Some have done that well, others have not and some have used Croke Park as a shield for their inactivity,” he added.

Mr Howlin declined to specify precisely to whom he was referring in his comments.

Asked whether he was talking about people within the public service, people in Cabinet or people in the Dáil, he said: “I’m talking about what I read in the papers.”

Asked whether he could be more specific he said: “No. I think you read the papers too.”

Speaking at the launch of a progress report on public service reform, the Minister also said a lot of allowances paid to staff in the public service should be re-labelled as core pay in the future where they were really part of the basic wage.

He said a lot of allowances were misnomers. He received an allowance for being a Minister while he noted a deputy teacher got an allowance for being a deputy teacher.

Mr Howlin said the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn had radical ideas about the way teachers were paid.

He said he was proposing a restructuring “so you don’t have allowances for this and allowances for that so you have grades of teacher with core functions attached to it”.

“We may look at that and may look at the guards as well. Rather than having the basic guards with allowances for doing all these things.”

Mr Howlin said his review of allowances had proved to be more complicated and challenging when his department drilled down into the 800 or so allowances currently paid to staff.

The Irish Times reported last weekend that changes to allowances were likely to be confined to new entrants.

The Government had set a target of generating €75 million in savings on allowances this year. However, sources close to his department said yesterday this money did not form part of the pay bill budget for 2012.

Mr Howlin said strong progress was being made in implementing the Government’s public service reform plans. He said 28,000 people had left the public service and the State’s pay bill would be reduced by €3.3 billion in net terms after increased pension costs by 2015.

The Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Brian Hayes said between €200 million and €600 million could be saved as a result of new streamlined procurement arrangements which the Government is to introduce.

The secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Robert Watt, said plans to introduce shared services across the Civil Service represented one of the biggest reforms ever in this area.

Under the plan human resource functions as well as, at a later date, pension administration, payroll and banking and financial management will be taken away from individual departments and centralised.

Mr Watt said Government departments would be “hollowed out” to concentrate on their basic functions such as support for Ministers and policy development.

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