Talks to look at more hours but less overtime

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 00:00

The Government is expected to propose increasing the number of hours worked by staff in the Civil Service at talks today on an extension to the Croke Park agreement. They are also likely to look for reductions in overtime.

Later in the week the Government is expected to propose new workplace reform measures including changes to flexitime arrangements and the introduction of greater scope to redeploy personnel.

Local authorities

Government representatives are also to table proposals for staff in local authorities today. These are expected to be broadly similar to those in other parts of the public service including a longer working week and cuts to premium payments. The Government has proposed that staff in the public service work an additional five hours per week, though this figure may be revised.

Sources close to the current process said the Government wanted to cut overtime rates. These go from time-and-a-quarter to double time. In the education sector, they said the Government wanted a combination of more hours and a reduction in the €125 million paid to teachers in supervision and substitution payments.

Asked whether the Government wanted to abolish all or just some of these payments, one source said: “The vast majority.”

High earners in the education sector – and in other parts of the public service – face a pay cut under Government proposals. There is speculation the threshold could be about €65,000. Sources said the Government wanted a pay cut but unions had suggested a step back on the incremental scale as an alternative. Sources said there was disagreement on plans to freeze or eliminate increments.

About 2,000 frontline staff, including gardaí and nurses, are expected to take part in a rally in Dublin today in protest at proposals to cut premium payments for working on a Sunday from double time to time-and-a-half and to scrap premium payments for Saturdays and evening time.

Sunday work

These moves are aimed at saving €170 million. The Government has offered to offset savings from any deal to reduce the number of staff on duty on Sundays against the €170 million target.

It is understood the Government believes there are too many staff working on Sundays, particularly in health.

One source said: “Attendance patterns should be determined by service needs but in some places it seems to be driven by staff requirements.”

Unions leaving the talks would run the risk of any alternative roster arrangement being determined by others.

Other sources, however, said that unions had proposed changing existing arrangements for Sunday premium payments in 2001 but management had refused to engage.

It is understood public service management were yesterday considering alternative proposals put forward on Saturday by some unions for premium payments for support staff in the health service. This could involve a fixed payment rather than one linked to pay.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said yesterday an outcome that protects premium payments of some and expects those who do not get them, in particular the lower and middle paid, to carry most of the burden “would be unfair and unacceptable to the Government”.