New Bill allows secondments to become permanent redeployment, says Minister

Howlin insists legislation will not mean compulsory move elswhere

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin: surprised by secondment arrangements

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin: surprised by secondment arrangements

Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 01:00

Public servants can be legally redeployed under legislation introduced by Minister for Public Reform and Expenditure Brendan Howlin.

Definitive redeployment from one sector of the public service to another is not legally possible, which the Minister has described as surprising. “Secondment arrangements are being used pending the enactment of this legislation to remove that legal barrier to movement,” he said.

The Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Bill would now provide “certainty of assignment for those currently on secondments and for those who will move in future”. Some 10,000 public servants have been redeployment under secondment arrangements.

The Minister said the Government “has agreed that compulsory redundancies will not apply to public servants, subject to an agreed flexibility on redeployment”.

Concern had been raised in the Seanad he said that the Public Appointments Service (PAS) would have “unbridled power” to compulsorily force employees to move. He stressed “the Bill will not provide such power to the PAS in any circumstance”.

Sick leave
The legislation will also set out the terms of the new sick leave scheme for the public service, which will reduce access to paid sick leave across the public service.

Fianna Fáil public reform spokesman Dara Calleary welcomed the Bill but called for more clarity on the appeal process for people who did not wish to be redeployed. Mr Calleary said there should be a “transparent appeals process” in place in such situations.

“While the Minister’s intentions may be good, future holders of that office may have less regard for people’s rights in that area and the legislation could potentially be used as a more free-for-all process.”

He also questioned why semi-State organisations were excluded from the Bill. They might be different because they were commercial bodies but “when they get into trouble and need a bailout they turn to their line Minister”.

He believed some semi-States had capacity that could be used in other semi-State bodies that required reform, or to respond to a particular consumer demand.

Government protection
The Mayo TD said they enjoyed the protection of the Government as their main shareholder in commercial and resource terms.

“If they enjoy that protection and benefit then there is an argument for their inclusion in the rules of staff management and training.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald also expressed concern about semi-States and highlighted the challenges facing workers in the National Lottery, which is due to be leased to the private sector. A majority were on permanent secondment from An Post but it was “not on the table” for those who “wish to rejoin the mother ship”.

Ms McDonald said a similar issue was brewing for employees of Bord Gáis Energy. She acknowledged the context was different for profit-making dividend delivering semi-States, but “core issues must be teased out in respect of the rights of employees”.