Pay cuts may hit top public servants

 

SERVING TOP-LEVEL staff in the civil and public service, as well as in commercial State companies, could face pay cuts under new Government proposals.

Minster for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin last night told the Dáil that current incumbents would form part of the current review of top-level pay that is under way.

“On the more general issue of the appropriate level of senior pay in the public service, I am currently reviewing the current provisions in place, including those for current incumbents, and I will be bringing proposals to Government shortly,” he said.

This is the first occasion the Minister has signalled in a speech that any pay cuts could affect serving personnel.

Previously, Mr Howlin has said he proposed to give further consideration as to how best to effect reductions in the remuneration of senior public sector posts, including the chief executives of commercial State companies.

He acknowledged that there might be contractual issues in relation to the application of any cap to current incumbents.

The report of the Review Group on State Assets found chief executives in 10 commercial State companies shared nearly €4.4 million in pay and benefits in 2009.

It said the chief executive of the ESB received a total package of more than €752,000 in 2009, while the chief executives at the Dublin Airport Authority and An Post received more than €500,000 each.

Separately yesterday, the Minister forecast the forthcoming first review of the Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform would be positive.

“There have already been real and significant examples of change under the Croke Park agreement, such as the transfer of the community welfare service to the Department of Social Protection.

“The implementation body under the agreement will report in a few weeks, and I am confident that it will show we are on the right track in terms of savings in the pay bill and the ongoing delivery of services with fewer staff.”

The implementation group’s report, which is scheduled to be given to the Department of Finance before the end of the week, is likely to state that savings of close to €300 million have been realised under the deal.

The local authority sector has claimed savings of about €160 million, while the health sector has said it produced savings of some €100 million.

It has also emerged the Government will shortly be presented with proposals to shake up the higher echelons of civil administration by creating a new forum called the senior public service to generate greater rotation among existing top management.

Mr Howlin described it as “a structure where you would have an interchange of ideas, a free flow of people, so that people could move more freely between Government departments and between other sections of the public service”.

He told reporters in Dublin it was “a model that has worked extremely well in Britain”.

The programme for government stated that, as part of removing barriers to mobility, a new structure would be created whereby members of senior management could be rotated across the public sector.

In a speech to top officials yesterday, the Minister said: “I will bring proposals to Government shortly on the governance arrangements and policy framework under which the senior public service will operate.”

The Minister said: “I want to facilitate early mobility at assistant secretary level.” He told the attendance that they would receive letters in the coming days “seeking expressions of interest in mobility”.

He added: “The intention is that people will come back by end June,indicating their preferences, and that we will put the first moves in place by the autumn.”

In addition, he wanted to “see a situation where vacancies that arise at assistant secretary level can be opened up in the first instance to expressions of interest by current assistant secretaries”.