Department of Health to exit Hawkins House ‘within months’

Civil servants are set to move to new offices on Baggot Street despite staff misgivings

The Department of Health will move from Hawkins House in central Dublin to new offices in Baggot Street. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The Department of Health will move from Hawkins House in central Dublin to new offices in Baggot Street. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The Department of Health is set to move within months from Hawkins House in central Dublin to new offices in Baggot Street, despite the misgivings of senior staff about a lack of individual offices.

The Department and the Office of Public Works, which is handling the move for the State, have confirmed the transfer is proceeding, despite concerns expressed by senior civil servants over a plan to do away with most private offices.

The department will move to its new headquarters, known as the Miesian Plaza, in early 2018, according to the Office of Public Works.

However, the OPW says no contracts have been signed yet for the demolition of Hawkins House, though the procurement process is “progressing”.

“The relocation project to Baggot Street from Hawkins House is going ahead and preparations for the relocation are under way,” according to a department spokeswoman.

Open plan

Engagement with staff about the move is ongoing, she says, but no “disturbance money” will be paid. The spokeswoman says “most staff” would be accommodated in an open-plan office environment.

Miesian Plaza, the former headquarters of the Bank of Ireland, has been redeveloped by owner Larry Goodman at a cost of €100 million. The department will not be the only tenant in the building, which will also house staff from the Department of Children as well as other Government departments.

The OPW is paying just under €500/sq m to rent Miesian Plaza. At about 13,000sq m, this equates to about €6.5 million per annum.

‘Distraction and interruption’

The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants wrote to the department last May expressing concern about the proposed working environment after staff transfer. It argued the new office would resemble a “call centre” with staff suffering “distraction and interruption” by being grouped in clusters of six and eight persons.

“We will continue to work constructively with the department on this matter in the lead-up to the move from Hawkins House,” the union told The Irish Times. “Our primary concern at all times is the provision of a work environment which is conducive to productivity.”

The Civil Public and Services Union general secretary Eoin Ronayne says staff are not in a position to stop the move, which is now “done and dusted”.

The Public Service Executive Union has also written to Minister for Health Simon Harris to complain about increased transport costs and the reduced number of car-parking spaces that will be available at the Baggot Street building.

In June, An Bord Pleanála approved the plan to demolish Hawkins House and the neighbouring Apollo House as part of a new €50 million redevelopment of the area.