Cabinet orders immediate jobs embargo in public sector

 

THE CABINET ordered an immediate and indefinite public ector jobs embargo, and exceptions will require the personal sanction of Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, it has emerged.

A letter is to be issued today by the Minister to all secretaries general and other agency heads giving details of the decision taken by the Cabinet on Sunday, the Department of Finance said last night.

The announcement, which was greeted with considerable surprise in some civil service quarters last night, came in the final seconds of Mr Lenihan’s questioning in the Dáil by the Opposition.

In his last sentence, Mr Lenihan told Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton and Labour TD Joan Burton: “A Government decision has been made on the restriction of recruitment in the public sector and that decision was finalised over the weekend.”

In a statement issued shortly before 9pm last night, the Department of Finance said: “The Minister for Finance confirmed to Dáil Éireann this afternoon that the Government took a decision at the weekend to restrict public service recruitment. Details of the restriction will be set out in a circular letter to be issued by the Department of Finance to all secretaries general of departments and heads of offices tomorrow.”

The use of a recruitment embargo is not unknown by governments during past financial difficulties, but its application this time is expected to be draconian.

In the past, exceptions were made for the recruitment of so-called frontline staff; nurses, doctors, etc; though on this occasion appointments to vacancies will only occur with Mr Lenihan’s approval.

The number of people working in the public sector increased by 5,200 last year to 369,100 as average earnings increased by almost 3 per cent, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The numbers employed in the public service hit their highest point in June 2008, but despite a fall of 4,400 over the summer months the total employed was still up by three percentage points in September over the previous year, the CSO figures show.