Cabinet expected to approve plans to reverse extra hours in public service

Group to look at cost and service implications of rolling back hours added in 2013

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is set to  tell the Cabinet new reform plans in education, health, higher education, local government and the Irish Prison Service are to be signed off and published by  May 15th. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is set to tell the Cabinet new reform plans in education, health, higher education, local government and the Irish Prison Service are to be signed off and published by May 15th. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Cabinet is expected to this week formally approve the establishment of an expert group to look at unwinding controversial additional unpaid hours introduced for tens of thousands of public service staff in 2013.

The group, which will be chaired by former Workplace Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey, will look at the costs involved in the rolling-back of these hours and the implications for services. It is to report by the end of the year.

The establishment of the group and the Government’s commitment to set aside a €150 million fund to pay for the implementation of its recommendations were key features of the public service pay deal agreed last December.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is expected to urge the Government to back a number of elements of the new agreement on Tuesday.

He is expected to tell the Cabinet that new reform plans in areas such as education, health, higher education, local government and the Irish Prison Service are to be signed off and published no later than May 15th.

Pay rise

These plans formed part of the agreement which will see about 350,000 State employees receive 1 per cent pay rises this year and next.

The deal also provides for a sectoral bargaining process aimed at dealing with outstanding claims and awards in different parts of the public service and a fund, valued at 1 per cent of the public pay bill as of next February, will be set aside for this purpose.

Mr McGrath is also expected to seek Government approval to appoint former Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy to head an oversight and implementation body for the new accord.

The move towards unwinding the additional working hours introduced as part of the Haddington Road agreement in 2013 was a major issue for trade unions in the negotiations on the accord. Previous government policy had been that such productivity measures were permanent.

Overtime and agencies

The Cabinet is expected to be told that the group headed by Mr Mulvey will look at the potential costs of replacing these additional hours across key parts of the public service whether it be by overtime, premium payments or using staff provided by agencies.

Mr McGrath’s department had previously estimated that it could cost more than €600 million to abolish the additional hours, although these figures are disputed by unions.

The group will also include former trade union leaders Peter McLoone and Liam Doran as well as two former senior civil servants and two external representatives.

Meanwhile, unions representing staff in the health sector are understood to be unhappy with elements of reforms proposed by management as part of the agreement and further talks are to take place in the coming week on the issue.

The Irish Times reported last month that management wanted staff to provide greater work flexibility, and to facilitate some services being made available over a full day as well as the introduction of new rostering arrangements.