Budget 2018: Abolition of extra working hours could cost €620m

Retain the additional hours public service staff must work since 2013, says department

The Department of Public Expenditure has argued that removing the obligation for public servants to work the ’Croke Park hours’ would impact on the provision of public services.

The Department of Public Expenditure has argued that removing the obligation for public servants to work the ’Croke Park hours’ would impact on the provision of public services.

 

The additional hours public service staff have been obliged to work without payment on foot of the Haddington Road agreement in 2013 should be retained in full, the Department of Public Expenditure has argued.

The department said the abolition of the additional hours could cost more than €620 million.

In a paper drawn up last July, and published as part of the official Budget 2018 documentation on Tuesday, the Department of Public Expenditure said if the additional hours were to be fully replaced through recruitment, approximately 11,652 whole -time equivalent staff would be required.

It said such a move would have a potential cost of about €621 million.

“Due to a range of factors, full replacement is unlikely. These include the sizeable cost, existing Government expenditure priorities, an already tightening labour market and finite resources.”

The Department of Public Expenditure said even a replacement rate of 50 per cent or 75 per cent would require additional recruitment of between 5,826 - 8,739 whole-time equivalents and costs of €311 million to €466 million.

The Department of Public Expenditure said qualitative evidence from across the public service indicated the additional hours were “integrated into public service delivery, from extended opening hours for hospital clinics and public libraries to the roll-out of the new local enterprise offices and more frequent Garda patrols.

“These services provide real benefits to citizens and represent a significant structural increase in the productivity of the public services.”

The paper stated that as part of the Haddington Road accord civil servants were required to work an additional 2.25 hours net per week: gardaí - an additional 3 days a year; nurses - an additional 1.5 hours per week; health and social care professionals - 2 hours per week; management / clerical (health sector) - 2 hours per week; teachers - 2 to 2.5 hours per week and academics - 78 hours per year .

Impact on services

The paper said it was the HSE’s view that any return to the working hours undertaken prior to 2013 would “have a severely negative impact on the provisions of services, together with being majorly costly at this time of constraint on public funding”.

“The loss of the additional hours available since 2013 would result in serious additional costs, and/or reduction in delivery of services. An example of this is that if nursing hours were to return to 37.5 hours per week, the maintenance of the same number of hours in nursing would require the taking on of an additional 1,433 nurses at an average cost of €60k per year. This would potentially cost an additional €88 million alone.”

“Furthermore, given current difficulties in recruiting and retaining some specialist categories of nurses and midwives, the loss of these hours at this time would have a severely negative impact on the provision of services, inevitably leading to curtailment and reduction of services, longer waiting lists, reduced clinic times etc.”

“The loss of hours in the allied health professionals sector would have an adverse effect on the continuance of the roll out of the extended day in these areas. Other projects such as early/late opening of clinics would also be curtailed as would the move to lunch time opening.”

The Department of Public Expenditure paper said the Croke Park agreement required 33 additional hours a year at post primary (36 hours at primary) to be worked by teachers.

It said these hours were used within the school system to facilitate “certain essential activities involving the entire teaching staff or groups of teachers to take place”.

“Examples include staff meetings, parent-teacher meetings, school planning, subject planning and mandated continuous professional development. Utilisation of the additional hours for these purposes has practically eliminated school closures which were previously necessary for these activities.”

“Should teachers cease working these hours, schools would be forced to again close for these activities, resulting in interruption to tuition time for students and significant inconvenience for parents.

“An alternative to closure would be to cease these activities, although this is not considered feasible due to the consequential impacts on student performance.”