Letter reveals list of 88 allowances to be abolished
ANALYSIS:LAST MONTH the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin faced strong criticism when his long-promised review of public service allowances appeared to backfire badly.
Cuts were, in the main, to be applied to new entrants with only one allowance paid to serving staff earmarked for abolition. Overall the reforms were to generate only about €3.5 million rather than €75 million in savings which had been flagged beforehand.
At the time Howlin said that management in different parts of the public service would begin, or continue, to engage with unions in relation to allowances for serving personnel “to establish the best way of modernising the pay structure and eliminating outdated arrangements”.
However, at the time this was largely overlooked, perhaps understandably, as neither Howlin nor his department provided any further explanation.
Yesterday in a surprise development, health service unions were shown a letter from the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Robert Watt, dated September 28th, which indicated that it had a priority list of 88 allowances for serving personnel which it wanted abolished.
The department later confirmed that it had sent similar letters to all departments.
The letter states: “Your Department must engage immediately with staff interests with a view to securing their early agreement to the elimination of those allowances payable within your Department to current beneficiaries, where no business case exists to pay such allowances to new beneficiaries.”
Already some unions have voiced opposition to the Government’s new move on allowances.
However, as the measures are being proposed under the Croke Park agreement it is expected that they will now use the dispute mechanisms set out in the deal to argue their case. Ultimately, this can result in a binding ruling in the Labour Court.
Last night the Minister said he favoured “the use of a dedicated fast-track arbitration process for all such cases”.
In the event of staff losing out on allowances it is likely that they would be compensated using a formula of 1½ times the annual loss which has been used previously in relation to the Croke Park agreement.
Sectoral allowances in the spotlight
Allowances proposed for elimination include:
Allowance for principals who act as secretary to board of management
Teaching through Irish
Consultants’ continuing medical education allowance
Travel allowance for non-nursing personnel
Island inducement allowance
JUSTICE SECTOR (Garda)
Promotion exam grant
Exam bonus – inspector
Aran island allowance
Industrial supervisor (kitchen and bakery)
Plain clothes (certain grades)
Tuck shop allowance
Locking area allowance
Border duty allowance
Search and rescue allowance
Civilian clothing allowance
Underwear and night attire
Chaplains’ housekeepers allowance