Longer working week proposed for public sector


THE GOVERNMENT has said that as part of its reform plans for the public service it wants to cut down on overtime and premium payments through the introduction of a longer core working day/week, including an 8am-8pm arrangement in the health sector.

It also wants to abolish seniority as a basis for promotion and to put in place provisions to deploy surplus staff across all traditional organisational boundaries.

The long-awaited “vision” document for the public service, which was given by the Department of Finance to trade unions last night, also indicates that the number of staff on the State’s payroll will fall substantially over the coming years – although it does not set out specific figures.

The document suggests that a leaner and more integrated public service could be achieved through the rationalisation of agencies, the reduction in numbers on the State payroll, greater use of shared services, enhanced e-government service, an effective system of re-deployment and improved productivity and performance.

The document says that the age profile in the public service will result in a substantial number of retirements over the coming years and that the incentivised schemes to encourage people to leave and the moratorium on recruitment will accelerate the rate of decline in staffing levels.

It suggests that “for this policy of numbers reduction to be effective in reducing the pay bill, it must be applied consistently to the end of 2014”.

The document argues that to maximise the potential reduction in numbers and to address emerging priorities over that period “fast and flexible” redeployment arrangements must be introduced.

“Extremely flexible redeployment arrangements must be viewed as the corollary to arrangements that do not provide for compulsory redundancy,” it says.

It also maintains that “targeted exit mechanisms may be needed to address situations where it is impractical to redeploy people”.

The document states that an effective system of redeployment is necessary to utilise surplus staff created by the reconfiguration of services and from the greater use of e-government and shared services as well as to facilitate the movement of personnel to new centres of excellence.

“To minimise the overall numbers required to deliver services at any time, such a system must operate smoothly so that staff can be deployed across organisational and sectoral boundaries. For example, surplus Civil Service staff in a particular location may more appropriately, in terms of organisational needs, the skills of those available and distance, be redeployed to the local government or health sector than to another Civil Service department or agency,” it says.

The document says that there must be a productivity dividend, including staff reductions, from the adoption of new technology and that it is also essential that the productivity potential from new work practices, re-rostering, cross-stream reporting, team-based working and skill mixes are garnered. It calls for the introduction of a longer working day/week across the entire public service and specifically from 8am-8pm in the health sector.

“Demarcation between grades must be reduced, especially in the health service where, for example, a better allocation of tasks as between non-consultant hospital doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants is needed. In other sectors, for example, security, defence and emergency services, civilianisation will be accelerated and initiated.”

The document says that while it is not intended to create a single public service organisation, the Government’s aim is to promote a shared public service identity and to remove artificial distinctions between different parts of the public service, by legislation, where appropriate.