Prison officers are paid for overtime they did not work

New system for extra hours pay is criticised in Comptroller and Auditor General report

Prison officers are receiving the equivalent of almost two weeks’ pay each year for overtime hours that they have not worked, a report has found. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Prison officers are receiving the equivalent of almost two weeks’ pay each year for overtime hours that they have not worked, a report has found. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Prison officers are receiving the equivalent of almost two weeks’ pay each year for overtime hours that they have not worked, a report has found.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) warned that changes made more than a decade ago to cut prison officers’ overtime are producing “substantially less” savings than expected.

In a bid to get €32 million worth of savings each year, the Irish Prison Service brought in new rules to govern overtime in 2005, which had at its peak cost €59 million a year .

However, the report shows the ongoing saving each year is just €5.5 million.

Under the new system, prison officers could sign up for up to 360 extra hours, for which they would be guaranteed payment even if they were not called upon.

They also received a one-time payment of €14,000 as a sweetener to accept the new arrangement.

The C&AG’s report, released yesterday, shows that some prison officers are getting double-time pay for hundreds of extra hours for which they have not had to work.

Extra hours

Shelton AbbeyWicklow

An average of 15 per cent of the annualised hours signed up to and paid for across the prison system in 2014 were written off.

In 2008, that was as much as 30 per cent.

In a renewed effort to cut costs, the prison service has reduced the number of officers signing up for the maximum number of extra hours, though the number still stands at 70 per cent of the total, down from 85 per cent.

Under the new system average rates of pay have remained static even though the number of hours worked over and above the regular 38-hour week has halved.

Average prison officer pay was €63,200 in 2005 and €63,900 in 2014. Under the new system, basic pay represents on average 61 per cent of a prison officer’s pay. This compares to 58 per cent under the overtime system.

When €41 million in lump sums paid to prison officers is factored in, the total saving under the system from 2006 to 2014 is estimated at just €8 million.

Progressive parts

Michael Donnellan

He said savings realised on overtime had been redirected to progressive parts of the prison system such as prisoner rehabilitation, education and training.

The report concludes that the hours available to senior prison management have been significantly under-utilised in most jails.

Comptroller and Auditor General Séamus McCarthy said the optimum number of hours needed to run the prison system, from which the need for annualised hours is calculated, dated back to a 2001 study which had not been updated.

Mr McCarthy’s report finds a significant variation in the number of written-off hours across the system.

He notes that while the predicted savings have not been achieved, the system meant management was better able to plan staffing and levels of remuneration were much more even.