Incentives may be needed to cut jobs, conference told

 

THE GOVERNMENT may need to put in place some incentivisation scheme as well as relying on natural wastage to secure the cut in numbers it is seeking in the public service, the chairman of the group charged with implementing the Croke Park agreement has said.

Speaking at an industrial relations conference in UCD yesterday, PJ Fitzpatrick said that already about 16,000 staff had left the public service since the former government introduced a moratorium on recruitment two years ago.

Under the new programme for government, Fine Gael and Labour have said an additional 18,000 to 21,000 personnel will go from the public service by 2014.

A further 4,000 will leave in 2015.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the reductions in payroll numbers achieved to date had generated savings of about €900 million per year.

However, Brendan McGinty, the director of industrial relations at the employers’ body Ibec, told the conference, which was organised by Industrial Relations News, that the Government would have to introduce compulsory redundancies if its targets were to be achieved.

The Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform rules out compulsory redundancies and further pay cuts until 2014 at least.

Mr Fitzpatrick said it could well be that a combination of natural wastage and some form of incentivisation would be needed to secure the numbers required.

He said this could be an early retirement scheme, such as introduced in the HSE before Christmas, or incentivised career breaks or a leave-of-absence arrangement.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the vast majority of public service unions had now backed the Croke Park agreement.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers is still opposed to the accord. However, the Teachers Union of Ireland is to reballot members on the deal.

Mr Fitzpatrick said it seemed it would be very difficult for any union to stay outside the Croke Park agreement and still continue to have the protections and benefits provided by it.

He told the conference that the only reasons for the Croke Park deal to be abandoned would be if it was shown that it was not delivering; if it was necessary for the Government to introduce compulsory redundancies; or if the economic situation warranted the imposition of further pay cuts.

He said that as a result of the Croke Park deal, work in the public service was being carried out by 16,000 fewer staff – including the 2,000 personnel in the HSE who left before Christmas.

He said there had also been a delayering of management in the Civil Service and redeployment arrangements had been introduced in the health service and to meet challenges in parts of the Civil Service such as in the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Enterprise and Employment.

He also said there were new, less costly rosters in prisons as well as for some Garda units.

He said the introduction of an extended working day in medical laboratories, which significantly reduced earnings for some staff, had generated savings of about €5 million.

Mr Fitzpatrick also said that there had been no industrial action, disputes or work-to-rule protests following the introduction of the changes.

A consultant on change management, Eddie Molloy, told the conference that the decision by the new Government to appoint a full Minister in charge of public service reform represented “a signal of really serious intent”.