Minister rejects allowance for public service staff in Dublin

Paschal Donohoe rules out special grant for workers to offset higher costs in the capital

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has ruled out the provision of special allowances to public service staff in Dublin. File photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has ruled out the provision of special allowances to public service staff in Dublin. File photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure has ruled out the provision of special allowances to public service staff in Dublin to take account of the higher costs associated with working there.

Paschal Donohoe was speaking at the Oireachtas committee on finance and public expenditure on Tuesday, where he also said the State was facing greater difficulties in retaining staff than in recruiting staff.

He said retention difficulties tended to vary by grade and by location across the country.

Fianna Fáil Senator Gerry Horkan told the committee that schools in Dublin were facing serious difficulties in holding on to teaching staff.

“There is a crisis in staff recruitment but also, particularly in Dublin, of staff retention. Somebody who gets a job in Dublin and all of a sudden realises the same job is available down home in Limerick, Offaly or Longford, or somewhere property prices are more affordable, they are gone.

“It is even more difficult to retain staff, qualified teachers, in Dublin than anywhere else in the country because of the issue to do with property prices, whether it be rent or trying to get a mortgage.

“I am not suggesting a London weighting concept but . . . a primary school teacher in a rural area and a primary school teacher in south Dublin are getting the same money but their disposable income at the end of the week is hugely different and that does need to be acknowledged.”

Mr Donohoe said the Government could not bring in a form of allowance for staff on the basis of where they worked.

“We are doing work with the Public Service Pay Commission in relation to recruitment and retention in the health service. It will be interesting to see what data that yields in terms of dealing with your point.

“I guess if that would apply to teachers it would also be pretty likely to apply to people working in the other public services, such as health,” he said.

Replying to Fianna Fáil spokesman on public expenditure and reform Dara Calleary on vacancies in the public service, the Minister said that in his experience “more of our difficulties tend to accumulate at the retention end than they sometimes do at the recruitment end, and the retention difficulties that we have tend to vary by grade and by part of the country”.

Vacancies

Separately, in a submission to the Public Service Pay Commission, the trade union Fórsa (formerly Impact) said the State was experiencing difficulties in attracting solicitors to work for the Legal Aid Board, meteorologists for Met Éireann, valuers for the Government’s Valuation Office, special educational needs organisers and radio officers for the Irish Coast Guard service.

Fórsa said there was ongoing difficulty recruiting meteorologists.

“The most recent panel for forecasters attracted sufficient applicants to fill only three posts. Following discussion in relation to starting salaries, eight candidates refused posts.”The union said the Department of Agriculture had run two competitions for technical agricultural officers since the start of 2016 and that overall the number of applicants had been satisfactory. However, it said that “difficulties persist in filling posts in meat plants due to the nature of the work and the location of posts”.

The union said the Valuation Office had sanction for 60 valuers but there were currently six vacancies left unfilled at Engineer Grade III level.

“A competition in 2017 seeking 12 new staff resulted in only six candidates being appointed. Candidates declined offers of employment due to the starting salary of €31,000. Over the past two years (2015 to 2017) the service has lost seven Grade III valuers due to resignation in circumstances whereby they accepted jobs in the private sector and semi-State sector.”